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Title: Body site-specific microbiota reflect sex and age-class among wild spotted hyenas
ABSTRACT Host-associated microbial communities, henceforth ‘microbiota’, can affect the physiology and behavior of their hosts. In mammals, host ecological, social and environmental variables are associated with variation in microbial communities. Within individuals in a given mammalian species, the microbiota also partitions by body site. Here, we build on this work and sequence the bacterial 16S rRNA gene to profile the microbiota at six distinct body sites (ear, nasal and oral cavities, prepuce, rectum and anal scent gland) in a population of wild spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta), which are highly social, large African carnivores. We inquired whether microbiota at these body sites vary with host sex or social rank among juvenile hyenas, and whether they differ between juvenile females and adult females. We found that the scent gland microbiota differed between juvenile males and juvenile females, whereas the prepuce and rectal microbiota differed between adult females and juvenile females. Social rank, however, was not a significant predictor of microbiota profiles. Additionally, the microbiota varied considerably among the six sampled body sites and exhibited strong specificity among individual hyenas. Thus, our findings suggest that site-specific niche selection is a primary driver of microbiota structure in mammals, but endogenous host factors may also more » be influential. « less
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FEMS Microbiology Ecology
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National Science Foundation
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