Abstract # 3064:

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THE INFLUENCE OF HABITAT ON MEXICAN BLACK HOWLER (ALOUATTA PIGRA) GUT MICROBIAL COMMUNITY COMPOSITION

K. R. Amato1, C. J. Yeoman1, N. Righini1, A. Kent1, A. Estrada2, R. M. Stumpf1, K. E. Nelson3, M. Torralba3, M. Gillis3 and S. R. Leigh1
1University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana, 109 Davenport Hall , 607 S. Matthews, Urbana, IL 61801, USA, 2Estacion de Biologia Tropical Los Tuxtlas, Instituto de Biologia, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, 3J. Craig Venter Institute
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Howler monkeys (Alouatta sp.) are able to include higher proportions of leaves in their diets than many other primate species. However, the high levels of fiber and toxins in leaves make howlers highly dependent on mutualistic gut microbial communities for digestion. Studies with other mammals suggest that the composition of the gut microbial community shifts with diet. Therefore, it is likely that howler groups with distinct diets possess different gut microbial communities. Such variations in gut microbial community composition are likely to affect howler digestive efficiency and nutrition. To investigate variation in gut microbial community composition within a species, we collected fecal samples from five groups of black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) in Mexico over an eight week period (May-July 2009). Two of these groups inhabited a continuous, tall rainforest. The other three inhabited a rainforest fragment, a continuous, semi-deciduous seasonal forest; and a rehabilitation center. Following the isolation of microbial DNA from all samples, we used community fingerprinting (ARISA) to compare gut microbial communities. Analysis of similarity revealed that gut microbial communities grouped by howler group habitat (ANOSIM R = 0.52; p = 0.001). This pattern likely reflects differences in site-specific diet or food availability, and suggests that the howlers’ relationship with gut microbes changes depending on the host’s environment.