Publications

The Intestinal Eukaryotic and Bacterial Biome of Spotted Hyenas: The Impact of Social Status and Age on Diversity and Composition

Heitlinger, E., Ferreira, S.C.M., Thierer, D. et al.

In mammals, two factors likely to affect the diversity and composition of intestinal bacteria (bacterial microbiome) and eukaryotes (eukaryome) are social status and age. In species in which social status determines access to resources, socially dominant animals maintain better immune processes and health status than subordinates. As high species diversity is an index of ecosystem health, the intestinal biome of healthier, socially dominant animals should be more diverse than those of subordinates. Gradual colonization of the juvenile intestine after birth predicts lower intestinal biome diversity in juveniles than adults. We tested these predictions on the effect of: (1) age (juvenile/adult) and (2) social status (low/high) on bacterial microbiome and eukaryome diversity and composition in the spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), a highly social, female-dominated carnivore in which social status determines access to resources. We comprehensively screened feces from 35 individually known adult females and 7 juveniles in the Serengeti ecosystem for bacteria and eukaryotes, using a set of 48 different amplicons (4 for bacterial 16S, 44 for eukaryote 18S) in a multi-amplicon sequencing approach. We compared sequence abundances to classical coprological egg or oocyst counts. For all parasite taxa detected in more than six samples, the number of sequence reads significantly predicted the number of eggs or oocysts counted, underscoring the value of an amplicon sequencing approach for quantitative measurements of parasite load. In line with our predictions, our results revealed a significantly less diverse microbiome in juveniles than adults and a significantly higher diversity of eukaryotes in high-ranking than low-ranking animals. We propose that free-ranging wildlife can provide an intriguing model system to assess the adaptive value of intestinal biome diversity for both bacteria and eukaryotes.

Citation

Heitlinger, E., Ferreira, S.C.M., Thierer, D. et al. "The Intestinal Eukaryotic and Bacterial Biome of Spotted Hyenas: The Impact of Social Status and Age on Diversity and Composition" Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology (2017): 262