The critical role of dietary foliage in maintaining the gut microbiome and metabolome of folivorous sifakas.
The gut microbiome (GMB) of folivores metabolizes dietary fiber into nutrients, including short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs); however, experiments probing the consequences of foliage quality on host GMBs are lacking. We therefore examined GMB structure and function via amplicon sequencing and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy in 31 captive sifakas (Propithecus coquereli) during dietary manipulations associated with husbandry. Supplementing standard diets with diverse foliage blends, versus with a single plant species, promoted more diverse GMBs, enriched for taxa implicated in plant-fiber metabolism, but depleted in taxa implicated in starch metabolism and bile tolerance. The consumption of diverse blends was associated with greater concentrations of colonic SCFAs. Abundant foliage, via forest access, promoted compositionally distinct and more stable GMBs, but reduced concentrations of SCFAs, possibly reflecting selection of high-quality leaves. In 11 subjects denied forest access, we examined the temporal pace of microbial shifts when supplemental foliage was abruptly switched between diverse blends and single species. The sifaka GMB responded within days, with community diversity and composition closely tracking foliage diversity. By providing experimental evidence that the folivore GMB is sensitive to minor changes in dietary foliage, we reveal the fragility of specialist GMBs, with implications for managing the wellbeing of endangered wildlife.
Greene, LK; McKenney, EA; O'Connell, TM; Drea, CM
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