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A multi-disciplinary comparison of great ape gut microbiota in a central African forest

Updated: Nov 24, 2022

Sci Rep Narat V, Amato KR, Ranger N, Salmona M, Mercier-Delarue S, Rupp S, Ambata P, Njouom R, Simon F, Giles-Vernick, LeGoff J

Comparisons of mammalian gut microbiota across different environmental conditions shed light on the diversity and composition of gut bacteriome and suggest consequences for human and animal health. Gut bacteriome comparisons across different environments diverge in their results, showing no generalizable patterns linking habitat and dietary degradation with bacterial diversity. The challenge in drawing general conclusions from such studies lies in the broad terms describing diverse habitats (“wild”, “captive”, “pristine”). We conducted 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing to characterize intestinal microbiota of free-ranging sympatric chimpanzees and gorillas in southeastern Cameroon and sympatric chimpanzees and gorillas in a European zoo. We conducted participant-observation and semi-structured interviews among people living near these great apes to understand better their feeding habits and habitats. Unexpectedly, bacterial diversity (ASV, Faith PD and Shannon) was higher among zoo gorillas than among those in the Cameroonian forest, but zoo and Cameroonian chimpanzees showed no difference. Phylogeny was a strong driver of species-specific microbial composition. Surprisingly, zoo gorilla microbiota more closely resembled that of zoo chimpanzees than of Cameroonian gorillas. Zoo living conditions and dietary similarities may explain these results. We encourage multidisciplinary approach integrating environmental sampling and anthropological evaluation to characterize better diverse environmental conditions of such investigations.

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