Conservation implications of shifting gut microbiomes in captive-reared endangered voles intended for reintroduction into the wild

Nora Allan, Trina A. Knotts, Risa Pesapane, Jon J. Ramsey, Stephanie Castle, Deana Clifford, Janet Foley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The Amargosa vole is a highly endangered rodent endemic to a small stretch of the Amargosa River basin in Inyo County, California. It specializes on a single, nutritionally marginal food source in nature. As part of a conservation effort to preserve the species, a captive breeding population was established to serve as an insurance colony and a source of individuals to release into the wild as restored habitat becomes available. The colony has successfully been maintained on commercial diets for multiple generations, but there are concerns that colony animals could lose gut microbes necessary to digest a wild diet. We analyzed feces from colony-reared and recently captured wild-born voles on various diets, and foregut contents from colony and wild voles. Unexpectedly, fecal microbial composition did not greatly differ despite drastically different diets and differences observed were mostly in low-abundance microbes. In contrast, colony vole foregut microbiomes were dominated by Allobaculum sp. while wild foreguts were dominated by Lactobacillus sp. If these bacterial community differences result in beneficial functional differences in digestion, then captive-reared Amargosa voles should be prepared prior to release into the wild to minimize or eliminate those differences to maximize their chance of success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number94
JournalMicroorganisms
Volume6
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 12 2018

Keywords

  • Amargosa vole
  • Captive breeding
  • Diet
  • Feces
  • Foregut
  • Microbiota
  • Microtus californicus scirpensis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Virology

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