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

The Gut Microbiome of Howler Monkeys (Alouatta palliata) in Costa Rica


1Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources, Rutgers University, 2Department of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Cagliari, 3School of Medicine, New York University

March 28, 2015 , Gateway Ballroom 2/3/4/5 Add to calendar

The human gut microbiome has been well characterized in modern and, increasingly, with new technologies, ancient populations. The gut microbiome of non-human primates is underway for the great apes, Old World monkeys, such as guenons, colobus, and vervet monkeys, and New World monkeys.

In this study, we characterized the gut microbiome of nineteen howler monkeys (Alouatta palliata) from Costa Rica and evaluated differences in microbial communities across the following age groups, babies (age 10-12 months old), juveniles (1-3 years old), and adults (over 3 years old), using QIIME and LEFse.

The howler monkey microbiota is dominated by Firmicutes (genera Oscilliospira, Faecalibacterium, and Coprococcus), which represented on average 44% of each sample. Other phyla present include Bacteriodetes (genus Prevotella), in addition to 13% unclassified bacteria from the Bacteroidetes (genus Bacteroides), the Firmicutes (genera Clostridium, Anaerostipes, and Vallitalea), and the Proteobacteria (genera Laminaire, Diazotrophicus, and Fabarum).

Beta diversity analysis reveals cluster segregation of baby and juvenile microbiota from adults. A total of eighteen statistically significant biomarkers differ across age groups. Babies/juvenile howler monkeys had higher abundance of Haemophilus and adults had increased representation of Faecalibacterium, Oscillospira, Ruminococcus, and Rubrivivax.

These results are consistent with the dominant phyla of the great apes, including humans, and Old World monkeys, which are also Firmicutes, Bacteriodetes, and Proteobacteria dominated. Continued work on the gut microbiome of non-human primates will provide insights to our shared evolutionary histories and enhance understanding about the development of the human intestinal ecosystem.