The Effects of Temperature on Animal Gut Microbiomes

Juan Sepulveda, Andrew H. Moeller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


Temperature is a prominent abiotic environmental variable that drives the adaptive trajectories of animal lineages and structures the composition of animal communities. Global temperature regimes are expected to undergo rapid shifts in the next century, yet for many animal taxa we lack an understanding of the consequences of these predicted shifts for animal populations. In this review, we synthesize recent evidence that temperature variation shapes the composition and function of animal gut microbiomes, key regulators of host physiology, with potential consequences for host population responses to climate change. Several recent studies spanning a range of animal taxa, including Chordata, Arthropoda, and Mollusca, have reported repeatable associations between temperature and the community composition and function of the gut microbiome. In several cases, the same microbiome responses to temperature have been observed across distantly related animal taxa, suggesting the existence of conserved mechanisms underlying temperature-induced microbiome plasticity. Extreme temperatures can disrupt the stability of alpha-diversity within the gut microbiomes individual hosts and generate beta-diversity among microbiomes within host populations. Microbiome states resulting from extreme temperatures have been associated, and in some cases causally linked, with both beneficial and deleterious effects on host phenotypes. We propose routes by which temperature-induced changes in the gut microbiome may impact host fitness, including effects on colonization resistance in the gut, on host energy and nutrient assimilation, and on host life history traits. Cumulatively, available data indicate that disruption of the gut microbiome may be a mechanism by which changing temperatures will impact animal fitness in wild-living populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number384
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
StatePublished - Mar 10 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


  • amplicon sequence variants (ASVs)
  • climate change
  • metagenomics
  • operational taxonomic unit (OTU)
  • organismal biology


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