From animalcules to an ecosystem: Application of ecological concepts to the human microbiome

Noah Fierer, Scott Ferrenberg, Gilberto E. Flores, Antonio González, Jordan Kueneman, Teresa Legg, Ryan C. Lynch, Daniel McDonald, Joseph R. Mihaljevic, Sean P. O'Neill, Matthew E. Rhodes, Se Jin Song, William A. Walters

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


The human body is inhabited by billions of microbial cells and these microbial symbionts play critical roles in human health. Human-associated microbial communities are diverse, and the structure of these communities is variable across body habitats, through time, and between individuals. We can apply concepts developed by plant and animal ecologists to better understand and predict the spatial and temporal patterns in these communities. Due to methodological limitations and the largely unknown natural history of most microbial taxa, this integration of ecology into research on the human microbiome is still in its Infancy. However, such integration will yield a deeper understanding of the role of the microbiome in human health and an improved ability to test ecological concepts that are more difficult to test in plant and animal systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-155
Number of pages19
JournalAnnual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
StatePublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • bacterial diversity
  • host-associated bacterial communities
  • microbial diversity
  • microbial ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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