This article is an opinion piece that explores the importance of linking symbiont dynamics to metacommunity theory. This paper posits that the ultimate goal of metacommunity theory is to demonstrate patterns of species diversity across space and provide mechanistic understanding for observed patterns. Symbionts are important to metacommunity theory because dynamics within their host often have both direct and indirect consequences to host health, which would further have influence on community structure.
The first step in identifying a symbiont metacommunity is determining the scale of interest. There are three essential scales worth considering, intra-host, inter-host, and inter-host subpopulation.
- Intra-host: there distinct communities of interacting symbionts within the host, that on occasion interact with one another through dispersal. (eg: consider different how differ organs are likely to have different microbiomes).
- Inter-host: hosts are considered the patches and likely have variation in symbiont dispersal.
- Inter-host sub-population: hosts are organized into sub-populations where symbiont mixing is higher within.