News Release 

Diet and gut microbiome of African megafauna

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A study explores links between diet and gut microbiome in African megafauna. Diet and gut microbiome composition are important for mammalian health, but their fluctuation in response to environmental changes is unclear. Tyler R. Kartzinel and colleagues collected and analyzed fecal samples from 33 large herbivore species from Laikipia, Kenya, over 5 1-month sampling periods between 2013 and 2016. To assess seasonal variation in diet and microbiome composition, the authors sequenced bacterial and plant DNA. Diet composition was correlated with microbiome composition across most species. Phylogenetic relatedness predicted microbiome composition and was correlated with diet composition, whereas dietary diversity did not predict the microbiome diversity of any species, except kudu. Diet and microbiomes also changed seasonally as rainfall waxed and waned. Overall, seasonal shifts in diet composition predicted 25% of seasonal turnover in microbiome composition. Species such as elephants exhibited little variability in either diet or microbiome, whereas species such as camels exhibited significant differences in both. Along this spectrum, domesticated species exhibited greater diet-microbiome turnover than wild species. Further, diets were often more diverse in the dry season and dominated by relatively few plant taxa in the wet season. The results suggest that understanding diet-microbiome links could help explain food web structures within communities and ecological differences between livestock and wildlife, according to the authors.

Article #19-05666: "Covariation of diet and gut microbiome in African megafauna," by Tyler R. Kartzinel, Julianna C. Hsing, Paul M. Musili, Bianca R. P. Brown, and Robert M. Pringle.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tyler R. Kartzinel, Brown University, Providence, RI; tel: 401-863-5851, 321-626-6657; email:


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