November 4, 2021 report
Evidence of convergence toward a social gut microbiome among vampire bats
A combined team of researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and The Ohio State University, has found evidence of convergence toward a social gut microbiome among vampire bats. In their paper published in the journal Biology Letters, the group describes their study of fecal samples collected from vampire bats from several zoos and in several wild locations.
In recent years, medical scientists have found that the gut biome plays a much bigger role in overall human health than previously assumed. These findings have led to more studies of the gut biome in both humans and other mammals. In this new effort, the researchers wondered about the impact of close social living on the gut biomes of mammals such as vampire bats.
Vampire bats survive by eating the blood of other animals. They are also social animals; not only do they live closely together, they also interact and groom one another, and at times, share food by regurgitating it mouth-to-mouth. To learn more about the impact of such close interaction on their gut biome, the researchers collected fecal samples from six zoos in the U.S., from 15 bats from several bat colonies in Belize, and another 31 from colonies in Panama. All of the samples underwent DNA sequencing to determine which microbes were living in the guts of the bats.
The researchers found the gut biomes of members of one colony of bats were more similar to one another than to those living in another colony. And bats that were particularly close in one colony had more similar gut biomes than other members of the same colony. The researchers also ran a small experiment in which they captured several bats from colonies in Panama and housed them together for four months. Fecal sample testing before and after showed that the gut biomes of all the bats had begun to converge.
More information: Karthik Yarlagadda et al, Social convergence of gut microbiomes in vampire bats, Biology Letters (2021). DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2021.0389
Journal information: Biology Letters
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