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Some Animals Have No Microbiome. Here’s What That Tells Us.

 Deepa Agashe, an ecologist and evolutionary biologist at the National Center for Biological Sciences in Bangalore, India, saw something similar in insects that her team collected from several locations near the greenery of their campus. The microbes they found in dragonflies and butterflies strongly correlated with the insects’ diets rather than with a particular insect species or developmental stage. The vast majority of the dragonflies’ bacterial communities seemed to have come together by chance. “Most of the bacteria were just there because they got there,” Agashe said. The insects “do not seem to be selecting for particular species of bacteria or a particular kind of bacteria.”

Repeated experiments that disrupted the butterflies’ microbial populations yielded no effect on the hosts’ growth or development. Neither did reintroducing the bacteria to their guts. “Really,” Agashe said, “they don’t seem to care about their microbes at all” — even though the butterflies feed on toxic plants and seem like perfect candidates for a full-fledged, functional microbiome that could detoxify their meals.

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