Season, age, and sex affect the fecal mycobiota of free‐ranging Tibetan macaques (Macaca thibetana)

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Department or Administrative Unit

Primate Behavior and Ecology

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Recent studies highlight that the gut mycobiota play essential roles in mammalian metabolic and immune systems, but to date we lack information on the forces that naturally shape the gut mycobiota of wild primates. To investigate the contributions of host and environmental factors in the taxonomic variation of the gut mycobiota, we examined the effects of age, sex, and season on the fecal mycobiota in wild‐living Tibetan macaques (Macaca thibetana). Using next generation sequencing and a longitudinal set of fecal samples collected over 1 year, we identified a set of core fungal taxa present in the Tibetan macaque's fecal samples. The predominant genera Aspergillus and Penicillium, which promote the digestion of cellulose and hemicellulose in herbivorous mammals, were detected in this study. Similar to humans, we found age and sex effects on the macaques’ fecal mycobiota. We also found that both fecal fungal composition and diversity (alpha and beta diversity) varied significantly by season. In particular, the Penicillium enriched mycobiota in summer samples may aid in the digestion of cellulose and hemicellulose present in mature leaves. The high alpha diversity detected in Tibetan macaques’ winter fecal samples may facilitate a diet rich in fiber ingested during this season. We propose that the gut mycobiota play an important role in the macaques’ ability to adapt to seasonal fluctuations in food availability and nutrient content.


This article was originally published in American Journal of Primatology. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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American Journal of Primatology


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