Gut microbiome composition, not alpha diversity, is associated with survival in a natural vertebrate population

Worsley, Sarah F., Davies, Charli S., Mannarelli, Maria-Elena, Hutchings, Matthew I., Komdeur, Jan, Burke, Terry, Dugdale, Hannah L. and Richardson, David S. ORCID: (2021) Gut microbiome composition, not alpha diversity, is associated with survival in a natural vertebrate population. Animal Microbiome, 3 (1). ISSN 2524-4671

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Background: The vertebrate gut microbiome (GM) can vary substantially across individuals within the same natural population. Although there is evidence linking the GM to health in captive animals, very little is known about the consequences of GM variation for host fitness in the wild. Here, we explore the relationship between faecal microbiome diversity, body condition, and survival using data from the long-term study of a discrete natural population of the Seychelles warbler (Acrocephalus sechellensis) on Cousin Island. To our knowledge, this is the first time that GM differences associated with survival have been fully characterised for a natural vertebrate species, across multiple age groups and breeding seasons. Results: We identified substantial variation in GM community structure among sampled individuals, which was partially explained by breeding season (5% of the variance), and host age class (up to 1% of the variance). We also identified significant differences in GM community membership between adult birds that survived, versus those that had died by the following breeding season. Individuals that died carried increased abundances of taxa that are known to be opportunistic pathogens, including several ASVs in the genus Mycobacterium. However, there was no association between GM alpha diversity (the diversity of bacterial taxa within a sample) and survival to the next breeding season, or with individual body condition. Additionally, we found no association between GM community membership and individual body condition. Conclusions: These results demonstrate that components of the vertebrate GM can be associated with host fitness in the wild. However, further research is needed to establish whether changes in bacterial abundance contribute to, or are only correlated with, differential survival; this will add to our understanding of the importance of the GM in the evolution of host species living in natural populations.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding Information: This work was supported by a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) NBAF Pilot Scheme Grant (NBAF1092) awarded to DSR, and a NERC grant (NE/S010939/1) awarded to DSR, HLD and MIH. CSD was funded by a NERC PhD studentship (NERC EnvEast Doctoral Training Programme Grant NE/L002582/1).
Uncontrolled Keywords: acrocephalus sechellensis,fitness,gut microbiome,life history,microbial diversity,veterinary (miscalleneous),agricultural and biological sciences (miscellaneous),animal science and zoology,microbiology (medical) ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/3400/3401
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Biological Sciences
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Science > Research Centres > Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation
Faculty of Science > Research Groups > Organisms and the Environment
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Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 23 Dec 2021 16:30
Last Modified: 15 Jun 2023 08:32
DOI: 10.1186/s42523-021-00149-6

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