Targeted manipulation of abundant and rare taxa in the daphnia magna microbiota with antibiotics impacts host fitness differentially

Reilly O. Cooper, Janna M. Vavra, Clayton E. Cressler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Host-associated microbes contribute to host fitness, but it is unclear whether these contributions are from rare keystone taxa, numerically abundant taxa, or interactions among community members. Experimental perturbation of the microbiota can highlight functionally important taxa; however, this approach is primarily applied in systems with complex communities where the perturbation affects hundreds of taxa, making it difficult to pinpoint contributions of key community members. Here, we use the ecological model organism Daphnia magna to examine the importance of rare and abundant taxa by perturbing its relatively simple microbiota with targeted antibiotics. We used sublethal antibiotic doses to target either rare or abundant members across two temperatures and then measured key host life history metrics and shifts in microbial community composition. We find that removal of abundant taxa had greater impacts on host fitness than did removal of rare taxa and that the abundances of nontarget taxa were impacted by antibiotic treatment, suggesting that no rare keystone taxa exist in the Daphnia magna microbiota but that microbe-microbe interactions may play a role in host fitness. We also find that microbial community composition was impacted by antibiotics differently across temperatures, indicating that ecological context shapes within-host microbial responses and effects on host fitness. IMPORTANCE Understanding the contributions of rare and abundant taxa to host fitness is an outstanding question in host microbial ecology. In this study, we use the model zooplankton Daphnia magna and its relatively simple cohort of bacterial taxa to disentangle the roles of distinct taxa in host life history metrics, using a suite of antibiotics to selectively reduce the abundance of functionally important taxa. We also examine how environmental context shapes the importance of these bacterial taxa in host fitness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00916-20
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Invertebrate-microbe interactions
  • Microbiome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Computer Science Applications


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