Vertically is better than horizontally
The way beneficial microbes are acquired is key to how good the relationship is between host and micro-organism, according to researchers at the University of Oxford, UK. Their study has shown that when bacteria are passed vertically – from mother to offspring – the microbes play a much stronger role in helping the recipient thrive, as the bacteria can then pass down to further offspring, continuing the cycle. In the case of aphids, the study showed that they cannot survive if these bacteria are removed. On the other hand, plants that acquire bacteria from their environment – most notably the microbes living in the soil around their roots – don’t do as well without them, but also do not die. These results give an insight into the symbiotic relationships between microbes and their hosts, and could be used to inform medical understanding in the future.