The gut microbiota contributes to host health by maintaining homeostasis, increasing digestive efficiency, and facilitating the development of the immune system. The composition of the gut microbiota can change dramatically within and between individuals of a species as a result of diet, age, or habitat. Therefore, understanding the factors determining gut microbiota diversity and composition can contribute to our knowledge of host ecology as well as to conservation efforts. Here we use high-throughput sequencing to describe variation in the gut microbiota of the endangered ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) at the Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve (BMSR) in southwestern Madagascar. Specifically, we measured the diversity and composition of the gut microbiota in relation to social group, age, sex, tooth wear and loss, and habitat disturbance. While we found no significant variation in the diversity of the ring-tailed lemur gut microbiota in response to any variable tested, the taxonomic composition of the gut microbiota was influenced by social group, age, and habitat disturbance. However, effect sizes were small and appear to be driven by the presence or absence of relatively low abundance taxa. These results suggest that habitat disturbance may not impact the lemur gut microbiota as strongly as it impacts the gut microbiota of other primate species, highlighting the importance of distinct host ecological and physiological factors on host-gut microbe relationships. Am. J. Primatol. 78:883-892, 2016.
- Bezà Mahafaly
- gut microbiota
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology