Interspecific variations in the gastrointestinal microbiota in penguins
Version of Record online: 25 JAN 2013
© 2013 The Authors. MicrobiologyOpen published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Volume 2, Issue 1, pages 195–204, February 2013
How to Cite
MicrobiologyOpen 2013; 2(1): 195–204
- Issue online: 13 FEB 2013
- Version of Record online: 25 JAN 2013
- Manuscript Accepted: 17 DEC 2012
- Manuscript Revised: 10 DEC 2012
- Manuscript Received: 17 SEP 2012
- Deakin University
- French Polar Institute. Grant Number: 119
Despite the enormous amount of data available on the importance of the gastrointestinal (GI) microbiota in vertebrate (especially mammals), information on the GI microbiota of seabirds remains incomplete. As with many seabirds, penguins have a unique digestive physiology that enables them to store large reserves of adipose tissue, protein, and lipids. This study used quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and 16S rRNA gene pyrosequencing to characterize the interspecific variations of the GI microbiota of four penguin species: the king, gentoo, macaroni, and little penguin. The qPCR results indicated that there were significant differences in the abundance of the major phyla Firmicutes, Bacteroides, Actinobacteria, and Proteobacteria. A total of 132,340, 18,336, 6324, and 4826 near full-length 16S rRNA gene sequences were amplified from fecal samples collected from king, gentoo, macaroni, and little penguins, respectively. A total of 13 phyla were identified with Firmicutes, Bacteroidetes, Proteobacteria, and Fusobacteria dominating the composition; however, there were major differences in the relative abundance of the phyla. In addition, this study documented the presence of known human pathogens, such as Campylobacter, Helicobacter, Prevotella, Veillonella, Erysipelotrichaceae, Neisseria, and Mycoplasma. However, their role in disease in penguins remains unknown. To our knowledge, this is the first study to provide an in-depth investigation of the GI microbiota of penguins.