Animal bodies harbour a complex and diverse community of microorganisms and accumulating evidence has revealed that microbes can influence the hosts’ behaviour, for example by altering body odours. Microbial communities produce odorant molecules as metabolic by-products and thereby modulate the biochemical signalling profiles of their animal hosts. As the diversity and the relative abundance of microbial species are influenced by several factors including host-specific factors, environmental factors and social interactions, there are substantial individual variations in the composition of microbial communities. In turn, the variations in microbial communities would consequently affect social and communicative behaviour by influencing recognition cues of the hosts. Therefore, microbiota studies have a great potential to expand our understanding of recognition of conspecifics, group members and kin. In this review, we aim to summarize existing knowledge of the factors influencing the microbial communities and the effect of microbiota on olfactory cue production and social and communicative behaviour. We concentrate on avian taxa, yet we also include recent research performed on non-avian species when necessary.
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