Enriching captivity conditions with natural elements does not prevent the loss of wild-like gut microbiota but shapes its compositional variation in two small mammals

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As continued growth in gut microbiota studies in captive and model animals elucidates the importance of their role in host biology, further pursuit of how to retain a wild-like microbial community is becoming increasingly important to obtain representative results from captive animals. In this study, we assessed how the gut microbiota of two wild-caught small mammals, namely Crocidura russula (Eulipotyphla, insectivore) and Apodemus sylvaticus (Rodentia, omnivore), changed when bringing them into captivity. We analyzed fecal samples of 15 A. sylvaticus and 21 C. russula, immediately after bringing them into captivity and 5 weeks later, spread over two housing treatments: a "natural" setup enriched with elements freshly collected from nature and a "laboratory" setup with sterile artificial elements. Through sequencing of the V3-V4 region of the 16S recombinant RNA gene, we found that the initial microbial diversity dropped during captivity in both species, regardless of treatment. Community composition underwent a change of similar magnitude in both species and under both treatments. However, we did observe that the temporal development of the gut microbiome took different trajectories (i.e., changed in different directions) under different treatments, particularly in C. russula, suggesting that C. russula may be more susceptible to environmental change. The results of this experiment do not support the use of microbially enriched environments to retain wild-like microbial diversities and compositions, yet show that specific housing conditions can significantly affect the drift of microbial communities under captivity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1318
Issue number5
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2022

    Research areas

  • 16S, captivity, diversity loss, gut-microbiome, host-associated microbiota, non-model organism, HOUSE-DUST, HOST, DIVERSITY, COMMUNITY, EXPOSURE, INCREASES, DEFENSE, DISEASE, SOIL

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