The effect of captivity on the primate gut microbiome varies with host dietary niche

Jeffrey S. Frankel, Elizabeth K. Mallott, Lydia M. Hopper, Stephen R. Ross, Katherine R. Amato*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Despite careful attention to animal nutrition and wellbeing, gastrointestinal distress remains relatively common in captive non-human primates (NHPs), particularly dietary specialists such as folivores. These patterns may be a result of marked dietary differences between captive and wild settings and associated impacts on the gut microbiome. However, given that most existing studies target NHP dietary specialists, it is unclear if captive environments have distinct impacts on the gut microbiome of NHPs with different dietary niches. To begin to examine this question, we used 16S ribosomal RNA gene amplicon sequences to compare the gut microbiomes of five NHP genera categorized either as folivores (Alouatta, Colobus) or non-folivores (Cercopithecus, Gorilla, Pan) sampled both in captivity and in the wild. Though captivity affected the gut microbiomes of all NHPs in this study, the effects were largest in folivorous NHPs. Shifts in gut microbial diversity and in the relative abundances of fiber-degrading microbial taxa suggest that these findings are driven by marked dietary shifts for folivorous NHPs in captive settings. We propose that zoos and other captive care institutions consider including more natural browse in folivorous NHP diets and regularly bank fecal samples to further explore the relationship between NHP diet, the gut microbiome, and health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23061
JournalAmerican journal of primatology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • captivity
  • diet
  • folivore
  • gut microbiome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

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