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Title: Taxonomic, Genomic, and Functional Variation in the Gut Microbiomes of Wild Spotted Hyenas Across 2 Decades of Study
The gut microbiome provides vital functions for mammalian hosts, yet research on its variability and function across adult life spans and multiple generations is limited in large mammalian carnivores. Here, we used 16S rRNA gene and metagenomic high-throughput sequencing to profile the bacterial taxonomic composition, genomic diversity, and metabolic function of fecal samples collected from 12 wild spotted hyenas ( Crocuta crocuta ) residing in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, over a 23-year period spanning three generations. The metagenomic data came from four of these hyenas and spanned two 2-year periods. With these data, we determined the extent to which host factors predicted variation in the gut microbiome and identified the core microbes present in the guts of hyenas. We also investigated novel genomic diversity in the mammalian gut by reporting the first metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) for hyenas. We found that gut microbiome taxonomic composition varied temporally, but despite this, a core set of 14 bacterial genera were identified. The strongest predictors of the microbiome were host identity and age, suggesting that hyenas possess individualized microbiomes and that these may change with age during adulthood. The gut microbiome functional profiles of the four adult hyenas were also individual specific more » and were associated with prey abundance, indicating that the functions of the gut microbiome vary with host diet. We recovered 149 high-quality MAGs from the hyenas’ guts; some MAGs were classified as taxa previously reported for other carnivores, but many were novel and lacked species-level matches to genomes in existing reference databases. IMPORTANCE There is a gap in knowledge regarding the genomic diversity and variation of the gut microbiome across a host’s life span and across multiple generations of hosts in wild mammals. Using two types of sequencing approaches, we found that although gut microbiomes were individualized and temporally variable among hyenas, they correlated similarly to large-scale changes in the ecological conditions experienced by their hosts. We also recovered 149 high-quality MAGs from the hyena gut, greatly expanding the microbial genome repertoire known for hyenas, carnivores, and wild mammals in general. Some MAGs came from genera abundant in the gastrointestinal tracts of canid species and other carnivores, but over 80% of MAGs were novel and from species not previously represented in genome databases. Collectively, our novel body of work illustrates the importance of surveying the gut microbiome of nonmodel wild hosts, using multiple sequencing methods and computational approaches and at distinct scales of analysis. « less
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Hird, Sarah M.
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National Science Foundation
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