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The role of exploitation in the establishment of mutualistic microbial symbioses

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JournalFEMS microbiology letters
DateAccepted/In press - 27 Jun 2019
DatePublished (current) - 4 Jul 2019
Issue number12
Number of pages16
Original languageEnglish


Evolutionary theory suggests that the conditions required for the establishment of mutualistic symbioses through mutualism alone are highly restrictive, often requiring the evolution of complex stabilising mechanisms. Exploitation, whereby initially the host benefits at the expense of its symbiotic partner and mutual benefits evolve subsequently through trade-offs, offers an arguably simpler route to the establishment of mutualistic symbiosis. In this review, we discuss the theoretical and experimental evidence supporting a role for host exploitation in the establishment and evolution of mutualistic microbial symbioses, including data from both extant and experimentally evolved symbioses. We conclude that exploitation rather than mutualism may often explain the origin of mutualistic microbial symbioses.

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