This week for MicroTwJC, we look at how gut microbiota change and adapt while the gut itself is being destroyed and remade when caterpillars turn into butterflies.
When a caterpillar becomes chrysalis, it marks the beginning of an incredible transformation, which is shown in the video above. It’s internal organs change and reform, muscles break apart and reform into new shapes, and organs shift and change.
But that isn’t all that change. These caterpillars are host to a range of microbiota in its gut. The delicate balance between the host and its symbionts must be maintained. This paper investigates how this balance is maintained.
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Link to the paper: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0086995
The majority of animals are holometabolous insects and change dramatically through development. They undergo a dramatic transformation from a larval stage, adapted to feed, to an adult separated by a pupal stage. During this pupal stage the majority of the organs are renewed including the gut. This creates a risky situation that we study here: when the gut is renewed insects risk losing beneficial microbiota while simultaneously being at risk of opportunistic infection. Here, by manipulating host and symbiont we show how host and symbiont succeed in jointly controlling opportunistic pathogens. If one or both of the partners are compromised, opportunistic pathogens dominate the gut microbiota resulting in increased mortality. These findings may be broadly applicable to insects with complete metamorphosis, including many disease vectors.