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  1. Abstract Background

    Empirical field studies allow us to view how ecological and environmental processes shape the biodiversity of our planet, but collecting samples in situ creates inherent challenges. The majority of empirical vertebrate gut microbiome research compares multiple host species against abiotic and biotic factors, increasing the potential for confounding environmental variables. To minimize these confounding factors, we focus on a single species of passerine bird found throughout the geologically complex island of Sulawesi, Indonesia. We assessed the effects of two environmental factors, geographic Areas of Endemism (AOEs) and elevation, as well as host sex on the gut microbiota assemblages of the Sulawesi Babbler,Pellorneum celebense,from three different mountains across the island. Using cloacal swabs, high-throughput-amplicon sequencing, and multiple statistical models, we identified the core microbiome and determined the signal of these three factors on microbial composition.


    The five most prevalent bacterial phyla within the gut microbiome ofP. celebensewereProteobacteria(32.6%),Actinobacteria(25.2%),Firmicutes(22.1%),Bacteroidetes(8.7%), andPlantomycetes(2.6%). These results are similar to those identified in prior studies of passeriform microbiomes. Overall, microbiota diversity decreased as elevation increased, irrespective of sex or AOE. A single ASV ofClostridiumwas enriched in higher elevation samples, while lower elevation samples were enriched with the generaPerlucidibaca(FamilyMoraxellaceae),Lachnoclostridium(FamilyLachnospiraceae), and an unidentified species in the FamilyPseudonocardiaceae.


    While the core microbiota families recovered here are consistent with other passerine studies, the decreases in diversity as elevation increases has only been seen in non-avian hosts. Additionally, the increased abundance ofClostridiumat high elevations suggests a potential microbial response to lower oxygen levels. This study emphasizes the importance of incorporating multiple statistical models and abiotic factors such as elevation in empirical microbiome research, and is the first to describe an avian gut microbiome from the island of Sulawesi.

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  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 22, 2024
  3. Abstract

    Intraspecific polymorphism in birds, especially plumage colour polymorphism, and the mechanisms that control it are an area of active research in evolutionary biology. The black‐headed bulbul (Brachypodius atriceps) is a polymorphic species with two distinct morphs, yellow and grey. This species inhabits the mainland and virtually all continental islands of Southeast Asia where yellow morphs predominate, but on two islands in the Sunda region, Bawean and Maratua, grey morphs are common or exclusive. Here, we generated a high‐quality reference genome of a yellow individual and resequenced genomes of multiple individuals of both yellow and grey morphs to study the genetic basis of coloration and population history of the species. Using PCA and STRUCTURE analysis, we found the Maratua Island population (which is exclusively grey) to be distinct from all otherB.atricepspopulations, having been isolated c. 1.9 million years ago (Ma). In contrast, Bawean grey individuals (a subset of yellow and grey individuals on that island) are embedded within an almost panmictic Sundaic clade of yellow birds. UsingFSTanddxyto compare variable genomic segments between Maratua and yellow individuals, we located peaks of divergence and identified candidate loci involved in the colour polymorphism. Tests of selection among coding‐proteins in highFSTregions, however, did not indicate selection on the candidate genes. Overall, we report on some loci that are potentially responsible for the grey/yellow polymorphism in a species that otherwise shows little genetic diversification across most of its range.

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