Symbiosis with intracellular or gut bacteria is essential for the nutrition of animals with an obligate blood-feeding habit. Divergent bacterial lineages have independently evolved functional interactions with obligate blood feeders, but all converge to an analogous biochemical feature: the provisioning of B vitamins. Although symbionts and blood feeders coevolved interdependently for millions of years we stress that their associations are not necessarily stable. Ancestral symbionts can be replaced by recently acquired bacteria with similar biochemical features, a dynamic that emerges through a combination of phylogenetic and ecological constraints. Specifically, we highlight the lateral transfer of a streamlined biotin (B7 vitamin) operon, and conjecture that its extensive spread across bacterial lineages may drive the emergence of novel nutritional symbioses with blood feeders.
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- B vitamins