Maternal fecal microbes contribute to shaping the early life assembly of the intestinal microbiota of co-inhabiting yak and cattle calves

Jianbo Zhang, Zeyi Liang, Renqing Ding Kao, Jianlin Han, Mei Du, Anum Ali Ahmad, Shengyi Wang, Ghasem Hosseini Salekdeh, Ruijun Long, Ping Yan*, Xuezhi Ding

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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The Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau offers one of the most extreme environments for yaks (Bos grunniens). Although the genetic adaptability of yak and rumen metagenomes is increasingly understood, the relative contribution of host genetics and maternal symbiotic microbes throughout early intestinal microbial successions in yaks remains elusive. In this study, we assessed the intestinal microbiota succession of co-inhabiting yak and cattle (Bos taurus) calves at different weeks after birth as well as the modes of transmission of maternal symbiotic microbes (i.e., rumen fluid, feces, oral cavity, and breast skin) to their calves’ intestinal microbiota colonization. We found that the fecal microbiota of yak and cattle calves after birth was dominated by members of the families Ruminococcaceae, Bacteroidaceae, and Lachnospiraceae. The Source Tracker model revealed that maternal fecal microbes played an important role (the average contribution was about 80%) in the intestinal microbial colonization of yak and cattle calves at different weeks after birth. Unlike cattle calves, there was no significant difference in the fecal microbiota composition of yak calves between 5 and 9 weeks after birth (Wilcoxon test, P > 0.05), indicating that yak may adapt to its natural extreme environment to stabilize its intestinal microbiota composition. Additionally, our results also find that the intestinal microbial composition of yak and cattle calves, with age, gradually tend to become similar, and the differences between species gradually decrease. The findings of this study are vital for developing strategies to manipulate the intestinal microbiota in grazing yaks and cattle for better growth and performance on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau.

Original languageEnglish
Article number916735
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2022. 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.


  • host-microbiome interaction
  • intestinal microbial colonization
  • intestinal microbial succession
  • maternal microbial transmission
  • natural grazing yak


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