© Universität Kiel


Thomas C. G. Bosch , Dr. Dr. h.c.

Professor of Zoology

Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

Born in 1955 in Augsburg, Germany
Studied Biology at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and at University College Swansea, UK


The Individual as Metaorganism: Novel Perspectives for Biology, Medicine and the Humanities

From protists to humans, all animals and plants are inhabited by microbial organisms. There is an increasing appreciation that these resident microbes influence the fitness of their hosts, ultimately forming a metaorganism consisting of a uni- or multicellular host and a community of associated microorganisms.
The objective of my research is to address key gaps in our current understanding of metaorganisms (synonym: holobionts) and to analyse and formulate new directions in explaining microbiota-host associations. My project will synthesize previous work on the evolution of immune systems and on host-microbe interactions over the past ten years and ask questions like: Are there unexplored developmental interactions between microbiota and host? Can a holobiont employ strategies unavailable to any one species alone? What does it mean to think of humans as part of a metaorganism - composed of human as well as of trillions of non-human cells? My goal is hence to integrate the different aspects of animal, plant and medical host-microbe research and to investigate how philosophy and anthropology can shape and change the way we look into the complexity of metaorganisms.
I do hope to engage colleagues from both the natural sciences and the humanities and also the public in the excitement of understanding how organismal complexity comes into being.

Recommended Reading

Rees, T., T. C. G. Bosch, and A. E. Douglas (2018). "How the microbiome challenges our concept of self." PLOS Biology 16, 2: e2005358.
Bosch, T. C. G. and D. Miller (2016). The holobiont imperative: perspectives from early emerging animals. New York: Springer.
Bosch, T. C. G. (2014). "Rethinking the role of immunity: lessons from Hydra." Trends in Immunology 35, 10: 495-502.

Publications from the Fellows' Library

Bosch, Thomas C. G. ( Wien [u.a.], 2016)
The holobiont imperative : perspectives from early emerging animals