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PLoS One. 2019 May 8;14(5):e0216565. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0216565. eCollection 2019.

Faecal microbiota changes associated with the moult fast in chinstrap and gentoo penguins.

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Division of Polar Life Sciences, Korea Polar Research Institute, Incheon, Republic of Korea.


In many seabirds, individuals abstain from eating during the moult period. Penguins have an intense moult that lasts for weeks, during which they are confined to land. Despite the importance for survival, it is still unclear how the faecal microbiota of Antarctic penguins changes in response to the moult fast. Here, we investigated the faecal microbiota of chinstrap (Pygoscelis antarcticus) and gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) on King George Island, Antarctica. The bacterial community compositions during the feeding and moulting stages were compared for both species using bacterial 16S rRNA gene amplicon on an Illumina MiSeq platform. Our results showed that the moult fast altered the bacterial community structures in both penguin species. Interestingly, the bacterial community composition shifted in the same direction in response to the moult fast but formed two distinct clusters that were specific to each penguin species. A significant increase in bacterial diversity was observed in gentoo penguins, whereas no such change was observed for chinstrap penguins. By analysing the contribution of the ecological processes that determine bacterial community assembly, we observed that processes regulating community turnover were considerably different between the feeding and moulting stages for each penguin. At the phylum level, the relative abundances of Fusobacteria, Firmicutes and Proteobacteria were dominant in chinstrap penguins, and no significant changes were detected in these phyla between the feeding and moulting periods. Our results suggest that moult fast-induced changes in the faecal microbiota occur in both species.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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