Patterns of Microbiome Variation Among Infrapopulations of Permanent Bloodsucking Parasites

Jorge Doña, Stephany Virrueta Herrera, Tommi Nyman, Mervi Kunnasranta, Kevin P. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While interspecific variation in microbiome composition can often be readily explained by factors such as host species identity, there is still limited knowledge of how microbiomes vary at scales lower than the species level (e.g., between individuals or populations). Here, we evaluated variation in microbiome composition of individual parasites among infrapopulations (i.e., populations of parasites of the same species living on a single host individual). To address this question, we used genome-resolved and shotgun metagenomic data of 17 infrapopulations (balanced design) of the permanent, bloodsucking seal louse Echinophthirius horridus sampled from individual Saimaa ringed seals Pusa hispida saimensis. Both genome-resolved and read-based metagenomic classification approaches consistently show that parasite infrapopulation identity is a significant factor that explains both qualitative and quantitative patterns of microbiome variation at the intraspecific level. This study contributes to the general understanding of the factors driving patterns of intraspecific variation in microbiome composition, especially of bloodsucking parasites, and has implications for understanding how well-known processes occurring at higher taxonomic levels, such as phylosymbiosis, might arise in these systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number642543
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
StatePublished - Apr 16 2021


  • genome-resolved metagenomics
  • host-symbiont
  • intraspecific variation
  • lice
  • microbiota
  • shotgun metagenomics
  • symbiont

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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