The microbial reproductive ecology of white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus)

Elizabeth K. Mallott*, Katherine R. Amato

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Changes in reproductive status influence energy and nutrient requirements in female primates. The gut microbiota may buffer changes in energy demands, with shifts in community composition increasing the energy production potential of the gut during pregnancy and lactation. In this study, we examine changes in the gut microbiome of wild, female white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus) across different reproductive states. Fecal samples (n = 39) were collected from five adult females over the course of a year. Gut microbial community composition was assessed using 16S rRNA gene sequences, and PICRUSt was used to make metagenomic functional predictions. We found a significant relationship between reproductive state and both the structure and predicted function of the gut microbiome, neither of which were associated with host diet. For example, the relative abundance of Firmicutes was significantly lower in lactating females compared with cycling females; the relative abundance of Actinobacteria was significantly higher in pregnant females compared with lactating females, and there was a trend toward higher relative abundances of Proteobacteria in pregnant females compared with cycling females. The results of this study suggest that, in addition to behavioral and dietary adaptions, the gut microbiota may play a role in allowing female primates to meet their changing energetic needs during reproduction. Further studies of the “microbial reproductive ecology” of primates will help advance our understanding of gut microbial contributions to primate energetics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere22896
JournalAmerican journal of primatology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • energetics
  • gut microbiome
  • reproduction
  • white-faced capuchins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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