The role of host promiscuity in the invasion process of a seaweed holobiont.
Invasive species are co-introduced with microbiota from their native range and also interact with microbiota found in the novel environment to which they are introduced. Host flexibility toward microbiota, or host promiscuity, is an important trait underlying terrestrial plant invasions. To test whether host promiscuity may be important in macroalgal invasions, we experimentally simulated an invasion in a common garden setting, using the widespread invasive macroalga Agarophyton vermiculophyllum as a model invasive seaweed holobiont. After disturbing the microbiota of individuals from native and non-native populations with antibiotics, we monitored the microbial succession trajectories in the presence of a new source of microbes. Microbial communities were strongly impacted by the treatment and changed compositionally and in terms of diversity but recovered functionally by the end of the experiment in most respects. Beta-diversity in disturbed holobionts strongly decreased, indicating that different populations configure more similar -or more common- microbial communities when exposed to the same conditions. This decline in beta-diversity occurred not only more rapidly, but was also more pronounced in non-native populations, while individuals from native populations retained communities more similar to those observed in the field. This study demonstrates that microbial communities of non-native A. vermiculophyllum are more flexibly adjusted to the environment and suggests that an intraspecific increase in host promiscuity has promoted the invasion process of A. vermiculophyllum. This phenomenon may be important among invasive macroalgal holobionts in general.