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Published February 26, 2013 | Published + Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Animals in a bacterial world, a new imperative for the life sciences


In the last two decades, the widespread application of genetic and genomic approaches has revealed a bacterial world astonishing in its ubiquity and diversity. This review examines how a growing knowledge of the vast range of animal–bacterial interactions, whether in shared ecosystems or intimate symbioses, is fundamentally altering our understanding of animal biology. Specifically, we highlight recent technological and intellectual advances that have changed our thinking about five questions: how have bacteria facilitated the origin and evolution of animals; how do animals and bacteria affect each other's genomes; how does normal animal development depend on bacterial partners; how is homeostasis maintained between animals and their symbionts; and how can ecological approaches deepen our understanding of the multiple levels of animal–bacterial interaction. As answers to these fundamental questions emerge, all biologists will be challenged to broaden their appreciation of these interactions and to include investigations of the relationships between and among bacteria and their animal partners as we seek a better understanding of the natural world.

Additional Information

© 2013 National Academy of Sciences. Edited by David M. Karl, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI, and approved January 17, 2013 (received for review December 2, 2012). Published online before print February 7, 2013. We thank N. Glasser for assistance with graphics and D. Haraway and E. A. C. Heath- Heckman for helpful discussion and comments on the manuscript. The work of this group was supported by National Science Foundation Grant EF-0905606 to the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent). This effort was also supported by fellowships to M.M.-N. from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Visiting Scholar Program at the California Institute of Technology. Author contributions: M.M.-N., M.G.H., T.C.G.B., H.V.C., T.D.-L., A.E.D., N.D., G.E., T.F., S.F.G., U.H., N. King, S.K., A.H.K., N. Kremer, S.K.M., J.L.M., K.N., N.E.P., J.F.R., A.R., E.G.R., M.R., J.G.S., D.T., and J.J.W. wrote the paper.

Attached Files

Published - PNAS-2013-McFall-Ngai-3229-36.pdf

Supplemental Material - pnas.201218525SI.pdf


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