Age-related differences in the cloacal microbiota of a wild bird species

Wouter F D van Dongen*, Joël White, Hanja B. Brandl, Yoshan Moodley, Thomas Merkling, Sarah Leclaire, Pierrick Blanchard, Étienne Danchin, Scott A. Hatch, Richard H. Wagner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background: Gastrointestinal bacteria play a central role in the health of animals. The bacteria that individuals acquire as they age may therefore have profound consequences for their future fitness. However, changes in microbial community structure with host age remain poorly understood. We characterised the cloacal bacteria assemblages of chicks and adults in a natural population of black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla), using molecular methods.Results: We show that the kittiwake cloaca hosts a diverse assemblage of bacteria. A greater number of total bacterial OTUs (operational taxonomic units) were identified in chicks than adults, and chicks appeared to host a greater number of OTUs that were only isolated from single individuals. In contrast, the number of bacteria identified per individual was higher in adults than chicks, while older chicks hosted more OTUs than younger chicks. Finally, chicks and adults shared only seven OTUs, resulting in pronounced differences in microbial assemblages. This result is surprising given that adults regurgitate food to chicks and share the same nesting environment.Conclusions: Our findings suggest that chick gastrointestinal tracts are colonised by many transient species and that bacterial assemblages gradually transition to a more stable adult state. Phenotypic differences between chicks and adults may lead to these strong differences in bacterial communities. These data provide the framework for future studies targeting the causes and consequences of variation in bacterial assemblages in wild birds.

Original languageEnglish
Article number11
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Ecology
Volume13
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2013
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2013. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • Age-differences
  • Automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis
  • Bacteria
  • Black-legged kittiwakes
  • Cloaca
  • Gastrointestinal tract

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