Local habitat, not phylogenetic relatedness, predicts gut microbiota better within folivorous than frugivorous lemur lineages.
Both host phylogenetic placement and feeding strategy influence the structure of the gut microbiome (GMB); however, parsing their relative contributions presents a challenge. To meet this challenge, we compared GMB structure in two genera of lemurs characterized by different dietary specializations, the frugivorous brown lemurs ( Eulemur spp.) and the folivorous sifakas ( Propithecus spp.). These genera sympatrically occupy similar habitats (dry forests and rainforests) and diverged over similar evolutionary timescales. We collected fresh faeces from 12 species (six per host genus), at seven sites across Madagascar, and sequenced the 16S rRNA gene to determine GMB membership, diversity and variability. The lemurs' GMBs clustered predominantly by host genus; nevertheless, within genera, host relatedness did not predict GMB distance between species. The GMBs of brown lemurs had greater evenness and diversity, but were more homogeneous across species, whereas the GMBs of sifakas were differentiated between habitats. Thus, over relatively shallow timescales, environmental factors can override the influence of host phylogenetic placement on GMB phylogenetic composition. Moreover, feeding strategy can underlie the relative strength of host-microbiome coadaptation, with Madagascar's folivores perhaps requiring locally adapted GMBs to facilitate their highly specialized diets.
Greene, LK; Clayton, JB; Rothman, RS; Semel, BP; Semel, MA; Gillespie, TR; Wright, PC; Drea, CM
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