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Fine Reading: The gut microbiota of insects – diversity in structure and function

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Now that the mammalian intestinal microbiome has been promoted to organ status, might not such stately respectability be granted to the gut microbiota of other metazoans? If looking for a worthy candidate for such recognition, one could not do better than to consider the varied communities dwelling in the guts of insects. A recent review by Engel and Moran points out that beneficial intestinal microbes here: upgrade nutrient-poor diets, aid digestion of recalcitrant food components, protect from predators, parasites and pathogens, contribute to inter- and intraspecific communication, affect efficiency as disease vectors, and govern mating and reproductive systems. Microbes, it is clear, have contributed mightily to insect success.

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