The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)


Age and sex differences in the behavior, diet, and gut microbial communities of wild black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra)

KATHERINE R. AMATO1,2, STEVEN R. LEIGH3,4, ANGELA D. KENT5, CARL J. YEOMAN6, REBECCA M. STUMPF2,4, MANOLITO TORRALBA7, MARCUS GILLIS7, BRENDA A. WILSON4,8, KAREN E. NELSON7, BRYAN A. WHITE4,9 and PAUL A. GARBER2.

1Program in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 3Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado Boulder, 4Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 5Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 6Animal and Range Sciences Department, Montana State University, 7The J. Craig Venter Institute, The J. Craig Venter Institute, 8Department of Microbiology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 9Department of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Adult female and juvenile primates require more energy and nutrients than adult males for processes like reproduction and growth. To meet these requirements individuals must increase intake, decrease metabolic consumption, and/or increaseassimilation efficiency of energy and nutrients. Behavioral shifts allow primates to alter food intake rates and decrease metabolic requirements, but when diet and activity are constrained, shifts in the composition of the gut microbial community may be essential to enhance digestive efficiency. We investigated age- and sex-based variation in activity, foraging behavior, and gut microbial community composition and function across seasons in wild black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) in Palenque National Park, Mexico. Data describing individual diet and activity budget were collected from two groups of howlers (N = 16 howlers) from September 2010 to June 2011(1,522 focal hours). Fecal samples for microbial 16S rDNA analysis were collected bi-weekly. Howlers exhibited similar behavior and diet, and hosted similar gut microbial communities (ANOSIM R = <0.10, p > 0.20), regardless of age or sex. However, gut microbial communities were more stable over time in adults compared to juveniles, and females tended to undergo a shift in microbial community composition during pregnancy and lactation (ANOSIM R range: 0.19 to 0.57, p range: 0.04 to 0.12). Thus, shifts in the gut microbial community appear to be a natural part of juvenile development and may play a critical role in female reproductive ecology. Additional dataidentifying the specific bacterial taxa that drive these shifts and how they influence host digestive efficiency are discussed.

This project was funded by a National Geographic Waitt Grant, an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, NSF grant #0935347, and the University of Illinois.

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