Determining fecal bacterial profiles of a human-habituated wild chimpanzee population in Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania

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Virginia Tech

Intestinal flora of wild chimpanzee has not been studied. Fecal flora analyses currently give insight to this environment. We collected feces from twelve human-habituated wild chimpanzees in each of three age groups: four juveniles, four sub-adults, and four adults. We analyzed fecal samples using Terminal-Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (T-RFLP) of amplified 16S rRNA genes to determine bacterial diversity present. Between 1 and 14 terminal-restriction fragments (T-RFs) were observed in each sample. A total of 26 unique T-RFs were produced from the samples and ranged in size from 92 to 837 base pairs (bps). Twenty-four of these T-RFs corresponded to five bacterial phyla: Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes, Mollicutes, and Proteobacteria, as well as uncultured and unidentified bacterial species. The remaining T-RFs corresponded solely to uncultured or unidentified bacteria. Firmicutes was the most common phylum, observed in 11 of the samples. Bacteroidetes was the second-most common phylum, detected in 8 of the samples. Principal Components Analysis (PCA) revealed a discrete clustering of 10 samples when looking at components one and two, and a clustering of 11 samples when looking at component three. These three components accounted for 72.5% of the variation within the data. Morisita indices were computed to compare T-RF profiles of two samples at a time, and were between 0 and 0.886. Results indicated that some fecal bacterial profiles were similar in the study group, but ultimately varied between samples when compared two at a time. Specific diet, physiology, and environmental reservoir exposure may play large roles in shaping such profiles.

T-RFLP, Gut flora, chimpanzee, endangered species, fecal flora