Life history correlates of fecal bacterial species richness in a wild population of the blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus

Benskin, Clare McW.H.; Rhodes, Glenn; Pickup, Roger W.; Mainwaring, Mark C.; Wilson, Kenneth; Hartley, Ian R.. 2015 Life history correlates of fecal bacterial species richness in a wild population of the blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus. Ecology and Evolution, 5 (4). 821-835.

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Very little is known about the normal gastrointestinal flora of wild birds, or how it might affect or reflect the host’s life-history traits. The aim of this study was to survey the species richness of bacteria in the faeces of a wild population of blue tits Cyanistes caeruleus, and to explore the relationships between bacterial species richness and various life-history traits, such as age, sex and reproductive success. Using PCR-TGGE, 55 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) were identified in blue tit faeces. DNA sequencing revealed that the 16S rRNA gene was amplified from a diverse range of bacteria, including those that shared closest homology with Bacillus licheniformis, Campylobacter lari, Pseudomonas spp. and Salmonella spp. For adults, there was a significant negative relationship between bacterial species richness and the likelihood of being detected alive the following breeding season; bacterial richness was consistent across years but declined through the breeding season; and breeding pairs had significantly more similar bacterial richness than expected by chance alone. Reduced adult survival was correlated with the presence of an OTU most closely resembling C. lari; enhanced adult survival was associated with an OTU most similar to Arthrobacter spp. For nestlings, there was no significant change in bacterial species richness between the first and second week after hatching, and nestlings sharing the same nest had significantly more similar bacterial richness. Collectively, these results provide compelling evidence that bacterial species richness was associated with several aspects of the life-history of their hosts.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: UKCEH Fellows
ISSN: 2045-7758
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link
Additional Keywords: 16S rRNA, bacterial species richness, fecal microbial community analysis, life-history traits, operational taxonomic unit, PCR-TGGE
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Biology and Microbiology
Date made live: 23 Jan 2015 10:29 +0 (UTC)

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