Hierarchical social networks shape gut microbial composition in wild Verreaux's sifaka.


) consisting of seven social groups. We show that social group membership is clearly reflected in the microbiomes of individual sifaka, and that social groups with denser grooming networks have more homogeneous gut microbial compositions. Within social groups, adults, more gregarious individuals, and individuals that scent-mark frequently harbour the greatest microbial diversity. Thus, the community structure of wild lemurs governs symbiotic relationships by constraining transmission between hosts and partitioning environmental exposure to microorganisms. This social cultivation of mutualistic gut flora may be an evolutionary benefit of tight-knit group living.

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