The developmental programs that build and sustain animal forms also encode the capacity to sense and adapt to the microbial world within which they evolved. This is abundantly apparent in the development of the digestive tract, which typically harbors the densest microbial communities of the body. Here, we review studies in human, mouse, zebrafish and Drosophila that are revealing how the microbiota impacts the development of the gut and its communication with the nervous system, highlighting important implications for human and animal health.

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