Impact of stress on the gut microbiome of free-ranging western lowland gorillas.


Exposure to stressors can negatively impact the mammalian gastrointestinal microbiome (GIM). Here, we used 454 pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA bacterial gene amplicons to evaluate the impact of physiological stress, as evidenced by faecal glucocorticoid metabolites (FGCM; ng/g), on the GIM composition of free-ranging western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). Although we found no relationship between GIM alpha diversity (H) and FGCM levels, we observed a significant relationship between the relative abundances of particular bacterial taxa and FGCM levels. Specifically, members of the family Anaerolineaceae (ρ=0.4, FDR q=0.01), genus Clostridium cluster XIVb (ρ=0.35, FDR q=0.02) and genus Oscillibacter (ρ=0.35, FDR q=0.02) were positively correlated with FGCM levels. Thus, while exposure to stressors appears to be associated with minor changes in the gorilla GIM, the consequences of these changes are unknown. Our results may have implications for conservation biology as well as for our overall understanding of factors influencing the non-human primate GIM.

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