Gut microbiome, diet, and conservation of endangered langurs in Sri Lanka

Katherine R. Amato, Sahana Kuthyar, Marcy Ekanayake-Weber, Roberta Salmi, Noah Snyder-Mackler, Lasanthi Wijayathunga, Rajnish Vandercone, Amy Lu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Understanding the mechanisms by which organisms respond to environmental change is critical to conservation biology. Recent research indicates that the gut microbiome may mediate mammalian responses to the environment and can be used as a biomarker to understand host ecological strategies. Here, we explore the relationship between the gut microbiome, host dietary niche, and potential resilience to habitat alteration using two closely related, sympatric non-human primate species: the tufted gray langur (Semnopithecus priam) and the purple-faced langur (Semnopithecus vetulus). The gray langur is suspected to be a habitat generalist less perturbed by anthropogenic disturbance, while the purple-faced langur is suspected to be a specialist more sensitive to disturbance. To test these characterizations, we assessed the gut microbiome using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing of fecal samples collected from Kaludiyapokuna Forest Reserve, Sri Lanka (gray langur n = 50 samples, purple-faced langur n = 7 samples). Our results demonstrate that despite strong gut microbial similarities, gray langurs had a more diverse gut microbiome that harbored Prevotella and Akkermansia, taxa involved in starch degradation, while the purple-faced langur gut microbiome harbored Roseburia, Clostridium, and Ruminococcus, taxa involved in processing plant structural carbohydrates. Compared to related species in other locations, both Sri Lankan langurs harbored more pathogenic bacteria. These differences suggest that gray langurs have more generalist diets, making them more resilient to anthropogenic change, but also indicate that they are not impervious to human encroachment. Our findings suggest that microbiome analyses are an important tool for langur ecology and conservation, and should be integrated into ongoing studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)981-990
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • Semnopithecus
  • colobines
  • generalists
  • gray langur
  • purple-faced langur
  • resilience
  • specialists

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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