Native and invading yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis) microbiomes differ in composition and diversity of bacteria.
Invasive species could benefit from being introduced to locations with more favorable species interactions, including the loss of enemies, the gain of mutualists, or the simplification of complex interaction networks. Microbiomes are an important source of species interactions with strong fitness effects on multicellular organisms, and these interactions are known to vary across regions. The highly invasive plant yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis) has been shown to experience more favorable microbial interactions in its invasions of the Americas, but the microbiome that must contribute to this variation in interactions is unknown. We sequenced amplicons of 16S rRNA genes to characterize bacterial community compositions in the phyllosphere, ectorhizosphere, and endorhizosphere of yellow starthistle plants from seven invading populations in California, USA, and eight native populations in Europe. We tested for the differentiation of microbiomes by geography, plant compartment, and plant genotype. Bacterial communities differed significantly between native and invading plants within plant compartments, with consistently lower diversity in the microbiome of invading plants. The diversity of bacteria in roots was positively correlated with plant genotype diversity within both ranges, but this relationship did not explain microbiome differences between ranges. Our results reveal that these invading plants are experiencing either a simplified microbial environment or simplified microbial interactions as a result of the dominance of a few taxa within their microbiome. Our findings highlight several alternative hypotheses for the sources of variation that we observe in invader microbiomes and the potential for altered bacterial interactions to facilitate invasion success.