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Can J Microbiol. 2011 Mar;57(3):177-85. doi: 10.1139/W10-113.

Comparative analysis of fecal microbiota and intestinal microbial metabolic activity in captive polar bears.

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Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada.


The composition of the intestinal microbiota depends on gut physiology and diet. Ursidae possess a simple gastrointestinal system composed of a stomach, small intestine, and indistinct hindgut. This study determined the composition and stability of fecal microbiota of 3 captive polar bears by group-specific quantitative PCR and PCR-DGGE (denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis) using the 16S rRNA gene as target. Intestinal metabolic activity was determined by analysis of short-chain fatty acids in feces. For comparison, other Carnivora and mammals were included in this study. Total bacterial abundance was approximately log 8.5 DNA gene copies·(g feces)-1 in all 3 polar bears. Fecal polar bear microbiota was dominated by the facultative anaerobes Enterobacteriaceae and enterococci, and the Clostridium cluster I. The detection of the Clostridium perfringens α-toxin gene verified the presence of C. perfringens. Composition of the fecal bacterial population was stable on a genus level; according to results obtained by PCR-DGGE, dominant bacterial species fluctuated. The total short-chain fatty acid content of Carnivora and other mammals analysed was comparable; lactate was detected in feces of all carnivora but present only in trace amounts in other mammals. In comparison, the fecal microbiota and metabolic activity of captive polar bears mostly resembled the closely related grizzly and black bears.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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