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Oecologia. 2016 Mar;180(3):717-33. doi: 10.1007/s00442-015-3507-z. Epub 2015 Nov 24.

Phylogenetic and ecological factors impact the gut microbiota of two Neotropical primate species.

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Department of Anthropology, Northwestern University, Evanston, USA.
BioFrontiers Institute, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA.
Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, USA.
Red de Manejo Biorracional de Plagas y Vectores, Instituto de EcologĂ­a, A.C., Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico.
Department of Anthropology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA.
Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita e dell'Ambiente, Sezione di Neuroscienze e Antropologia, UniversitĂ  di Cagliari, Cagliari, Italy.
Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Diego, San Diego, CA, USA.
BioFrontiers Institute, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA.
Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.
Department of Medicine, New York University, New York, NY, USA.
Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, USA.
Department of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, USA.
J. Craig Venter Institute, Rockville, MD, USA.
Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA.


Recent studies suggest that variation in diet across time and space results in changes in the mammalian gut microbiota. This variation may ultimately impact host ecology by altering nutritional status and health. Wild animal populations provide an excellent opportunity for understanding these interactions. However, compared to clinical studies, microbial research targeting wild animals is currently limited, and many published studies focus only on a single population of a single host species. In this study we utilize fecal samples from two species of howler monkey (Alouatta pigra and A. palliata) collected at four sites to investigate factors influencing the gut microbiota at three scales: taxonomic (host species), ecosystemic (forest type), and local (habitat disturbance/season). The results demonstrate that the effect of host species on the gut microbiota is stronger than the effect of host forest type, which is stronger than the effect of habitat disturbance or seasonality. Nevertheless, within host species, gut microbiota composition differs in response to forest type, habitat disturbance, and season. Variations in the effect size of these factors are associated both with host species and environment. This information may be beneficial for understanding ecological and evolutionary questions associated with Mesoamerican howler monkeys, as well as determining conservation challenges facing each species. These mechanisms may also provide insight into the ecology of other species of howler monkeys, non-human primates, and mammals.


Alouatta; Disturbance; Habitat; Microbiome; Season

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