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Host phylogeny and life history stage shape the gut microbiome in dwarf (Kogia sima) and pygmy (Kogia breviceps) sperm whales

Authors
  • Denison, Elizabeth R.1
  • Rhodes, Ryan G.1
  • McLellan, William A.1
  • Pabst, D. Ann1
  • Erwin, Patrick M.1
  • 1 University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC, 28409, USA , Wilmington (United States)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Scientific Reports
Publisher
Springer Nature
Publication Date
Sep 16, 2020
Volume
10
Issue
1
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-72032-4
Source
Springer Nature
License
Green

Abstract

Gut microbiomes perform crucial roles in host health and development, but few studies have explored cetacean microbiomes especially deep divers. We characterized the gut microbiomes of stranded dwarf (Kogia sima) and pygmy (K. breviceps) sperm whales to examine the effects of phylogeny and life stage on microbiome composition and diversity. 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis revealed diverse gut communities (averaging 674 OTUs) dominated by a few symbiont taxa (25 OTUs accounted for 64% of total relative abundance). Both phylogeny and life stage shaped community composition and diversity, with species-specific microbiome differences present early in life. Further analysis showed evidence of microbiome convergence with host maturity, albeit through different processes: symbiont ‘accumulation’ in K. sima and ‘winnowing’ in K. breviceps, indicating different methods of community assembly during host development. Furthermore, culture-based analyses yielded 116 pure cultures matching 25 OTUs, including one isolate positive for chitin utilization. Our findings indicate that kogiid gut microbiomes are highly diverse and species-specific, undergo significant shifts with host development, and can be cultivated on specialized media under anaerobic conditions. These results enhance our understanding of the kogiid gut microbiome and may provide useful information for symbiont assessment in host health.

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