Animal sociality facilitates the transmission of pathogenic microorganisms among hosts, but the extent to which sociality enables animals' beneficial microbial associations is poorly understood. The question is critical because microbial communities, particularly those in the gut, are key regulators of host health. We show evidence that chimpanzee social interactions propagate microbial diversity in the gut microbiome both within and between host generations. Frequent social interaction promotes species richness within individual microbiomes as well as homogeneity among the gut community memberships of different chimpanzees. Sampling successive generations across multiple chimpanzee families suggests that infants inherited gut microorganisms primarily through social transmission. These results indicate that social behavior generates a pan-microbiome, preserving microbial diversity across evolutionary time scales and contributing to the evolution of host species- specific gut microbial communities.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by grants from the NIH (R01 AI58715 to B.H.H. and R01 GM101209 to H.O.), an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (Award ID 2011119472) to A.H.M., an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (Award ID 1407133) to H.O. and A.H.M., and NSF grant IOS-LTREB-1052693 to A.E.P.
© The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science.