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J Microbiol Methods. 2015 Jun;113:16-26. doi: 10.1016/j.mimet.2015.03.021. Epub 2015 Mar 27.

Effect of preservation method on spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi) fecal microbiota over 8 weeks.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47906, USA. Electronic address:
San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, Escondido, CA 92027, USA. Electronic address:
Department of Pediatrics, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA; Department of Computer Science & Engineering, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093, USA. Electronic address:
Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309, USA. Electronic address:


Studies of the gut microbiome have become increasingly common with recent technological advances. Gut microbes play an important role in human and animal health, and gut microbiome analysis holds great potential for evaluating health in wildlife, as microbiota can be assessed from non-invasively collected fecal samples. However, many common fecal preservation protocols (e.g. freezing at -80 °C) are not suitable for field conditions, or have not been tested for long-term (greater than 2 weeks) storage. In this study, we collected fresh fecal samples from captive spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) at the Columbian Park Zoo (Lafayette, IN, USA). The samples were pooled, homogenized, and preserved for up to 8 weeks prior to DNA extraction and sequencing. Preservation methods included: freezing at -20 °C, freezing at -80 °C, immersion in 100% ethanol, application to FTA cards, and immersion in RNAlater. At 0 (fresh), 1, 2, 4, and 8 weeks from fecal collection, DNA was extracted and microbial DNA was amplified and sequenced. DNA concentration, purity, microbial diversity, and microbial composition were compared across all methods and time points. DNA concentration and purity did not correlate with microbial diversity or composition. Microbial composition of frozen and ethanol samples were most similar to fresh samples. FTA card and RNAlater-preserved samples had the least similar microbial composition and abundance compared to fresh samples. Microbial composition and diversity were relatively stable over time within each preservation method. Based on these results, if freezers are not available, we recommend preserving fecal samples in ethanol (for up to 8weeks) prior to microbial extraction and analysis.


Ateles geoffroyi; Fecal microbial community; Fecal preservation method; Gut microbiota; Primate

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