The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)


Determinants of the gut microbiota of Mesoamerican howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra and A. palliata)

KATHERINE R. AMATO1,8, MELISSA RAGUET-SCHOFIELD1, NICOLETTA RIGHINI1,3, RODOLFO MARTINEZ-MOTA1, ROB KNIGHT5,8, REBECCA M. STUMPF1,4, KAREN E. NELSON7, BRYAN A. WHITE4,6 and STEVEN R. LEIGH1,2,4.

1Anthropology, University of Colorado Boulder, 2Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 3Instituto de Ecologia, A.C., Xalapa, Mexico, 4Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois, Urbana, Champaign, 5Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Colorado Boulder, 6Animal Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 7J. Craig Venter Institue, 8BioFrontiers Institute, University of Colorado Boulder

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Understanding primate-gut microbe interactions is critical in primate ecology and conservation. For example, the gut microbiota of Mexican black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) appears to have a nutritional buffering effect across seasons, while in degraded habitats, it may exacerbate reductions in host nutrition and health. We hypothesized that habitat would impact both the black and mantled howler monkey gut microbiota similarly, that the gut microbiota would shift less markedly across seasons in fragmented forest than in continuous forest, and that differences in the gut microbiota across habitats would be reduced during seasons of reduced fruit intake.

Fecal samples were collected from howler monkeys at two sites (Palenque National Park, Mexico and Ometepe Island, Nicaragua). Mexican howler monkeys were sampled repeatedly across several years and seasons. Nicaraguan samples were collected at two time points, including dry season and wet season. Analyses are based on high throughput analyses of 16S microbial rDNA to assess microbial taxa represented

Our data support the last two hypotheses in black howler monkeys. However, we found that while the gut microbiota of the mantled howler monkey was qualitatively similar to that of the black howler monkey, the mantled howler monkey gut microbiota responded differently to changes in habitat compared to the black howler monkey gut microbiota.

These findings suggest that different host species have distinct relationships with their gut microbiota and that integrating gut microbial processes into ecological models will require detailed data for each primate species.

This research was supported by NSF 0935347 to R. Stumpf and S. Leigh, NSF DIG to K. Amato, the University of Illinois, and the University of Colorado.