You are here

Harvard Forest >

Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2019

  • Title: Exploring the gut microbiome diversity of the giant panda and sympatric endangered animals in the Qinling Mountains, China
  • Primary Author: Dong Chen (Chinese Academy of Sciences)
  • Additional Authors: Yi-ping Chen (Not specified)
  • Abstract:

    The gut microbiome is of vital importance to nutrition, metabolism, and immunity of animals, including the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). How could the giant panda have evolved to rely on a bamboo-dominated and fiber-rich diet with a carnivorous digestive system? The answer is its gut microbiome and the cellulose and hemicellulose digesting enzymes expressed by this microbiome.
    In the study, we compared the gut microbiome diversity of the giant panda and the other three endangered animals that co-occur with it in the Qinling Mountains—the golden monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellanae), takin (Budorcas taxicolor), and crested ibis (Nipponia nippon)—through sequencing and bioinformatic analysis of the bacterial 16S rRNA genes in 66 fecal samples collected from these four animals throughout the year.
    The results showed that: (i) the gut microbiome of the golden monkey (G) and takin (T) displayed a greater diversity than the crested ibis (C) or giant panda (P), with a higher Shannon index and a lower Simpson index; (ii) the giant panda had a simpler gut microbiome than the three other animals, visible in a principal component analysis (PCA) based on abundance of operational taxonomic units (OTUs); and (iii) the gut microbiome of giant panda was much closer to that of the crested ibis than that of the golden monkey and takin, indicated by nonmetric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) on unweighted UniFrac distances among these four animals.
    The comparative study of gut microbiome diversity in endangered animals inhabiting the same geographical region of the Qinling Mountains illustrates that the gut microbiome of the giant panda is unlike other co-occurring herbivorous mammals (i.e. golden monkey and takin) and more closer to a bird’s, even though the panda eats only bamboo. Future investigations will compare the microbiome functional roles in these endangered animals.

  • Research Category: Regional Studies; Conservation and Management; Biodiversity Studies

  • Figures:
  • DC_Figure_wunifrac.NMDS.pdf