3 years ago

Gut microbial communities of American pikas (Ochotona princeps): Evidence for phylosymbiosis and adaptations to novel diets

Gut microbial communities of American pikas (Ochotona princeps): Evidence for phylosymbiosis and adaptations to novel diets
Jennifer L. Wilkening, M. Denise Dearing, Kevin D. Kohl, Johanna Varner
Gut microbial communities provide many physiological functions to their hosts, especially in herbivorous animals. We still lack an understanding of how these microbial communities are structured across hosts in nature, especially within a given host species. Studies on laboratory mice have demonstrated that host genetics can influence microbial community structure, but that diet can overwhelm these genetic effects. We aimed to test these ideas in a natural system, the American pika (Ochotona princeps). First, pikas are high-elevation specialists with significant population structure across various mountain ranges in the USA, allowing us to investigate whether similarities in microbial communities match host genetic differences. Additionally, pikas are herbivorous, with some populations exhibiting remarkable dietary plasticity and consuming high levels of moss, which is exceptionally high in fibre and low in protein. This allows us to investigate adaptations to an herbivorous diet, as well as to the especially challenging diet of moss. Here, we inventoried the microbial communities of pika caecal pellets from various populations using 16S rRNA sequencing to investigate structuring of microbial communities across various populations with different natural diets. Microbial communities varied significantly across populations, and differences in microbial community structure were congruent with genetic differences in host population structure, a pattern known as “phylosymbiosis.” Several microbial members (Ruminococcus, Prevotella, Oxalobacter and Coprococcus) were detected across all samples, and thus likely represent a “core microbiome.” These genera are known to perform a number of services for herbivorous hosts such as fibre fermentation and the degradation of plant defensive compounds, and thus are likely important for herbivory in pikas. Moreover, pikas that feed on moss harboured microbial communities highly enriched in Melainabacteria. This uncultivable candidate phylum has been proposed to ferment fibre for herbivores, and thus may contribute to the ability of some pika populations to consume high amounts of moss. These findings demonstrate that both host genetics and diet can influence the microbial communities of the American pika. These animals may be novel sources of fibre-degrading microbes. Last, we discuss the implications of population-specific microbial communities for conservation efforts in this species. Here, the authors report that the gut microbial community structures of American pikas were congruent with genetic differences in host population structure, a pattern known as “phylosymbiosis.” The populations of pikas that feed on moss also harboured microbial communities that may aid them in digesting this difficult food source.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12692

You might also like
Never Miss Important Research

Researcher is an app designed by academics, for academics. Create a personalised feed in two minutes.
Choose from over 15,000 academics journals covering ten research areas then let Researcher deliver you papers tailored to your interests each day.

  • Download from Google Play
  • Download from App Store
  • Download from AppInChina

Researcher displays publicly available abstracts and doesn’t host any full article content. If the content is open access, we will direct clicks from the abstracts to the publisher website and display the PDF copy on our platform. Clicks to view the full text will be directed to the publisher website, where only users with subscriptions or access through their institution are able to view the full article.