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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2024
  2. Evolutionary theories predict that sibling relationships will reflect a complex balance of cooperative and competitive dynamics. In most mammals, dispersal and death patterns mean that sibling relationships occur in a relatively narrow window during development and/or only with same-sex individuals. Besides humans, one notable exception is mountain gorillas, in which non-sex-biased dispersal, relatively stable group composition, and the long reproductive tenures of alpha males mean that animals routinely reside with both maternally and paternally related siblings, of the same and opposite sex, throughout their lives. Using nearly 40,000 hr of behavioral data collected over 14 years on 699 sibling and 1235 non-sibling pairs of wild mountain gorillas, we demonstrate that individuals have strong affiliative preferences for full and maternal siblings over paternal siblings or unrelated animals, consistent with an inability to discriminate paternal kin. Intriguingly, however, aggression data imply the opposite. Aggression rates were statistically indistinguishable among all types of dyads except one: in mixed-sex dyads, non-siblings engaged in substantially more aggression than siblings of any type. This pattern suggests mountain gorillas may be capable of distinguishing paternal kin but nonetheless choose not to affiliate with them over non-kin. We observe a preference for maternal kin in a species with a high reproductive skew (i.e. high relatedness certainty), even though low reproductive skew (i.e. low relatedness certainty) is believed to underlie such biases in other non-human primates. Our results call into question reasons for strong maternal kin biases when paternal kin are identifiable, familiar, and similarly likely to be long-term groupmates, and they may also suggest behavioral mismatches at play during a transitional period in mountain gorilla society. 
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  3. Abstract Background

    Antibiotics alter the diversity, structure, and dynamics of host-associated microbial consortia, including via development of antibiotic resistance; however, patterns of recovery from microbial imbalances and methods to mitigate associated negative effects remain poorly understood, particularly outside of human-clinical and model-rodent studies that focus on outcome over process. To improve conceptual understanding of host-microbe symbiosis in more naturalistic contexts, we applied an ecological framework to a non-traditional, strepsirrhine primate model via long-term, multi-faceted study of microbial community structure before, during, and following two experimental manipulations. Specifically, we administered a broad-spectrum antibiotic, either alone or with subsequent fecal transfaunation, to healthy, male ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta), then used 16S rRNA and shotgun metagenomic sequencing to longitudinally track the diversity, composition, associations, and resistomes of their gut microbiota both within and across baseline, treatment, and recovery phases.


    Antibiotic treatment resulted in a drastic decline in microbial diversity and a dramatic alteration in community composition. Whereas microbial diversity recovered rapidly regardless of experimental group, patterns of microbial community composition reflected long-term instability following treatment with antibiotics alone, a pattern that was attenuated by fecal transfaunation. Covariation analysis revealed that certain taxa dominated bacterial associations, representing potential keystone species in lemur gut microbiota. Antibiotic resistance genes, which were universally present, including in lemurs that had never been administered antibiotics, varied across individuals and treatment groups.


    Long-term, integrated study post antibiotic-induced microbial imbalance revealed differential, metric-dependent evidence of recovery, with beneficial effects of fecal transfaunation on recovering community composition, and potentially negative consequences to lemur resistomes. Beyond providing new perspectives on the dynamics that govern host-associated communities, particularly in the Anthropocene era, our holistic study in an endangered species is a first step in addressing the recent, interdisciplinary calls for greater integration of microbiome science into animal care and conservation.

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  4. Abstract

    Contemporary theory that emphasizes the roles of oxytocin and vasopressin in mammalian sociality has been shaped by seminal vole research that revealed interspecific variation in neuroendocrine circuitry by mating system. However, substantial challenges exist in interpreting and translating these rodent findings to other mammalian groups, including humans, making research on nonhuman primates crucial. Both monogamous and non-monogamous species exist withinEulemur, a genus of strepsirrhine primate, offering a rare opportunity to broaden a comparative perspective on oxytocin and vasopressin neurocircuitry with increased evolutionary relevance to humans. We performed oxytocin and arginine vasopressin 1a receptor autoradiography on 12Eulemurbrains from seven closely related species to (1) characterize receptor distributions across the genus, and (2) examine differences between monogamous and non-monogamous species in regions part of putative “pair-bonding circuits”. We find some binding patterns acrossEulemurreminiscent of olfactory-guided rodents, but others congruent with more visually oriented anthropoids, consistent with lemurs occupying an ‘intermediary’ evolutionary niche between haplorhine primates and other mammalian groups. We find little evidence of a “pair-bonding circuit” inEulemurakin to those proposed in previous rodent or primate research. Mapping neuropeptide receptors in these nontraditional species questions existing assumptions and informs proposed evolutionary explanations about the biological bases of monogamy.

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  5. Abstract Host-associated microbiomes shape and are shaped by myriad processes that ultimately delineate their symbiotic functions. Whereas a host's stable traits, such as its lineage, relate to gross aspects of its microbiome structure, transient factors, such as its varying physiological state, relate to shorter-term, structural variation. Our understanding of these relationships in primates derives principally from anthropoid studies and would benefit from a broader, comparative perspective. We thus examined the vaginal, labial, and axillary microbiota of captive, female ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) and Coquerel's sifakas (Propithecus coquereli), across an ovarian cycle, to better understand their relation to stable (e.g. species identity/mating system, body site) and transient (e.g. ovarian hormone concentration, forest access) host features. We used 16S amplicon sequencing to determine microbial composition and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays to measure serum hormone concentrations. We found marked variation in microbiota diversity and community composition between lemur species and their body sites. Across both host species, microbial diversity was significantly correlated with ovarian hormone concentrations; negatively with progesterone and positively with estradiol. The hosts’ differential forest access related to the diversity of environmental microbes, particularly in axillary microbiomes. Such transient endogenous and exogenous modulators have potential implications for host reproductive health and behavioral ecology. 
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