Developing general principles of host–microorganism interactions necessitates a robust understanding of the eco-evolutionary processes that structure microbiota. Phylosymbiosis, or patterns of microbiome composition that can be predicted by host phylogeny, is a unique framework for interrogating these processes. Identifying the contexts in which phylosymbiosis does and does not occur facilitates an evaluation of the relative importance of different ecological processes in shaping the microbial community. In this Review, we summarize the prevalence of phylosymbiosis across the animal kingdom on the basis of the current literature and explore the microbial community assembly processes and related host traits that contribute to phylosymbiosis. We find that phylosymbiosis is less prevalent in taxonomically richer microbiomes and hypothesize that this pattern is a result of increased stochasticity in the assembly of complex microbial communities. We also note that despite hosting rich microbiomes, mammals commonly exhibit phylosymbiosis. We hypothesize that this pattern is a result of a unique combination of mammalian traits, including viviparous birth, lactation and the co-evolution of haemochorial placentas and the eutherian immune system, which compound to ensure deterministic microbial community assembly. Examining both the individual and the combined importance of these traits in driving phylosymbiosis provides a new framework for research in this area moving forward.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)639-653
Number of pages15
JournalNature Reviews Microbiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


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