The gut microbiome plays an important role in a host’s development and adaption to its dietary niche. In this study, a group of bamboo-feeding insects are used to explore the potential role of the gut microbiota in the convergent adaptation to extreme diet specialization. Specifically, using a 16S rRNA marker and an Illumina sequencing platform, we profiled the microbial communities of 76 gut samples collected from nine bamboo-feeding insects, including both hemimetabolous (Orthoptera and Hemiptera) and holometabolous (Coleoptera and Lepidoptera) species, which are specialized in three distinct dietary niches: bamboo leaf, shoot, and sap. The gut microbiota of these insects were dominated by Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, and Bacteroidetes and were clustered into solid (leaf and shoot) and liquid (sap) dietary niches. The gut bacterial communities of insects feeding on solid diet overlapped significantly, even though these insects belong to phylogenetically distant lineages representing different orders. In addition, the presence of cellulolytic bacterial communities within the gut microbiota allows bamboo-feeding insects to adapt to a highly specialized, fiber-rich diet. Although both phylogeny and diet can impact the structure and composition of gut microbiomes, phylogeny is the primary driving force underlying the convergent adaptation to a highly specialized diet, especially when the related insect species harbor similar gut microbiomes and share the same dietary niche over evolutionary timescales. These combined findings lay the foundation for future research on how convergent feeding strategies impact the interplays between hosts and their gut microbiomes and how the gut microbiota may facilitate convergent evolution in phylogenetically distant species in adaptation to the shared diet.

Document Type


Publication Date


Notes/Citation Information

Published in Frontiers of Microbiology, v. 12, article 633075.

© 2021 Huang, Wang, Huang, Zhang, Vogler, Liu, Li, Yang, Li and Zhou.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Funding Information

This study was supported by the Cooperation Project of Zhejiang Province and Chinese Academy of Forestry (grant no. 2020SY08) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31670618).

Related Content

The datasets presented in this study can be found in online repositories. The names of the repository/repositories and accession number(s) can be found below: https://www.ddbj.nig.ac.jp/, PRJD89344.