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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2018 Mar;165(3):576-588. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.23395. Epub 2018 Jan 4.

Influence of fruit and invertebrate consumption on the gut microbiota of wild white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus).

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Department of Anthropology, Northwestern University, 1810 Hinman Ave, Evanston, Illinois 60208.
Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 109A Davenport Hall, 607 South Mathews Avenue, Urbana, Illinois 61801.
Carl R Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1206 West Gregory Drive, Urbana, Illinois 61801.



Invertebrate consumption is thought to be an integral part of early hominin diets, and many modern human populations regularly consume insects and other arthropods. This study examines the response of gut microbial community structure and function to changes in diet in wild white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus), a primate that incorporates a large proportion of invertebrates in its diet. The goal of the study is to better understand the role of both fruit and invertebrate prey consumption on shaping primate gut microbiomes.


Fecal samples (n = 169) and dietary data were collected over 12 months. The V3-V5 region of microbial 16S rRNA genes was amplified and sequenced. The IM-TORNADO pipeline was used to analyze sequences.


White-faced capuchin gut bacterial communities were characterized primarily by Firmicutes (41.6%) and Proteobacteria (39.2%). There was a significant relationship between the invertebrate diet composition of individual capuchins and their gut microbiome composition. However, there was no relationship between the fruit diet composition of individual capuchins and their gut microbiome composition, even when examining multiple timescales.


The results of our study indicate that there is a stronger relationship between gut microbial community structure and invertebrate diet composition than between gut microbial community structure and fruit consumption. As invertebrates and other animal prey play an important role in the diet of many primates, these results give important insight into the role of faunivory in shaping the evolution of host-microbe interactions in primates.


gut microbiome; human evolution; insectivory; omnivory; white-faced capuchins

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