The extended genotype: microbially mediated olfactory communication

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Microbes are now known to influence inter- and intraspecific olfactory signaling systems. They do so by producing metabolites that function as odorants. A unique attribute of such odorants is that they arise as a product of microbial–host interactions. These interactions need not be mutualistic, and indeed can be antagonistic. We develop an integrated ecoevolutionary model to explore microbially mediated olfactory communication and a process model that illustrates the various ways that microbial products might contribute to odorants. This novel approach generates testable predictions, including that selection to incorporate microbial products should be a common feature of infochemicals that communicate identity but not those that communicate fitness or quality. Microbes extend an individual's genotype, but also enhance vulnerability to environmental change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)885-894
Number of pages10
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • microbiome
  • holobiont
  • hologenome
  • olfactory communication
  • microbiome–gut–brain axis
  • animal behavior

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