An introduction to phylosymbiosis

Shen Jean Lim, Seth R. Bordenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


Phylosymbiosis was recently formulated to support a hypothesis-driven framework for the characterization of a new, cross-system trend in host-associated microbiomes. Defining phylosymbiosis as 'microbial community relationships that recapitulate the phylogeny of their host', we review the relevant literature and data in the last decade, emphasizing frequently used methods and regular patterns observed in analyses. Quantitative support for phylosymbiosis is provided by statistical methods evaluating higher microbiome variation between host species than within host species, topological similarities between the host phylogeny and microbiome dendrogram, and a positive association between host genetic relationships and microbiome beta diversity. Significant degrees of phylosymbiosis are prevalent, but not universal, in microbiomes of plants and animals from terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Consistent with natural selection shaping phylosymbiosis, microbiome transplant experiments demonstrate reduced host performance and/or fitness upon host-microbiome mismatches. Hybridization can also disrupt phylosymbiotic microbiomes and cause hybrid pathologies. The pervasiveness of phylosymbiosis carries several important implications for advancing knowledge of eco-evolutionary processes that impact host-microbiome interactions and future applications of precision microbiology. Important future steps will be to examine phylosymbiosis beyond bacterial communities, apply evolutionary modelling for an increasingly sophisticated understanding of phylosymbiosis, and unravel the host and microbial mechanisms that contribute to the pattern. This review serves as a gateway to experimental, conceptual and quantitative themes of phylosymbiosis and outlines opportunities ripe for investigation from a diversity of disciplines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20192900
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1922
StatePublished - Mar 11 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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