Cascading effects of habitat loss on ectoparasite communities and their associated bacterial microbiomes
Suitable habitat fragment size, isolation, and distance from a source are important variables influencing community composition of plants and animals, but the role of these environmental factors in determining composition and variation of host-associated microbial communities is poorly known. In parasite-associated microbial communities, it is hypothesized that evolution and ecology of an arthropod parasite will influence its microbiome more than broader environmental factors, but this hypothesis has not been extensively tested. To examine the influence of the broader environment on the parasite microbiome, we applied high-throughput sequencing of the V4 region of 16S rRNA to characterize the microbiome of 222 obligate ectoparasitic bat flies (Streblidae and Nycteribiidae) collected from 155 bats (representing six species) from ten habitat fragments in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil. Parasite species identity is the strongest driver of microbiome composition. To a lesser extent, reduction in habitat fragment area, but not isolation, is associated with an increase in connectance and betweenness centrality of bacterial association networks driven by changes in the diversity of the parasite community. Controlling for the parasite community, bacterial network topology covaries with habitat patch area and exhibits parasite-species specific responses to environmental change. Taken together, habitat loss may have cascading consequences for communities of interacting macro- and microorgansims.