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Trends in Ecology & Evolution
Vol. 34 (3), 2019, Page: 188

Microbial Genomes as Extension Packs for Macroorganismal Diversity: A Reply to Morimoto and Baltrus

Alexandra J.R. Carthey, Michael R. Gillings, Daniel T. Blumstein

Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW 2109, Australia.

Abstract

We thank Morimoto and Baltrus for their attention to our paper, ‘The extended genotype: microbially mediated olfactory communication’ [ 1 ]. We agree with Morimoto and Baltrus that the genotype has been classically defined as the genes that are vertically inherited and we do not dispute this definition. However, we use the term ‘extended genotype’ to mean just that: an additional set of genes that extend the diversity and functionality of the vertically inherited genome. Much as extension packs may be purchased to customise almost any consumer product, such as a car, electronic gadget, or children’s building set, the extended genotype concept proposes that individual organisms may access additional genetic diversity by co-opting microorganism genomes. The extension pack is not the core product, much as the microbial genome is not part of the organism’s core genome; rather, it allows the genome to be extended as required, a key distinction between the extended genotype and the holobiont concept. We used the term extended genotype to refer to this concept, in deliberate homage to Dawkins’ ‘extended phenotype’, a trope that is likely familiar to all readers of Trends in Ecology and Evolution.

 

 
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