What is it about?
To increase our knowledge on factors impacting the viability and health of this endangered species, we studied the gut microbiota in 32 individual Bengal tigers from three geographically separated areas (Chitwan National Park (CNP), Bardia National Park (BNP) and Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve (SWR)) in Nepal, using noninvasive genetic sampling methods. Gut microbiota influence the immune system, impact various physiological functions, and modulates metabolic reactions, that ultimately impact the host health, behavior and development. Across the tiger populations in Nepal, we found significant differences in the composition of microbial communities based on their geographic locations. We conclude the tiger population structure, gut microbiota profile and associated functional metabolic categories are correlated, with geographically most separated CNP and SWR tiger population having the most distinct and different host genotype and microbiota profiles. Our work dramatically expands the understanding of tiger microbiota in wild populations and provides a valuable case study on how to investigate genetic diversity at different hierarchical levels, including hosts as well as their microbial communities.
Photo by Dominik Lückmann on Unsplash
Why is it important?
The extent to which habitat loss and fragmentation alter the gut microbiota and in turn impact the health of endangered wildlife is largely unknown. Small isolated wildlife populations may not only have low genetic diversity but also have a low gut microbial diversity with an altered functionality that could adversely impact the health of these animals and potentially increase the risk of local extinction. As part of the Nepal Tiger Genome Project (NTGP), we conducted one of the largest microbiota surveys of a wild carnivore spanning three populations with different degrees of connectivity and human visitation. We take advantage of data of likely prey species to help untangle the drivers of microbial community structure and assess what role phylosymbiosis plays in structuring the tiger microbiota. This study increased our knowledge of tiger gut microbiota and the information could contribute towards the development of a more comprehensive strategy to conserve and manage wild tiger populations occurring across fragmented landscapes.
Read the Original
This page is a summary of: Gut microbiota and their putative metabolic functions in fragmented Bengal tiger population of Nepal, PLoS ONE, August 2019, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0221868.
You can read the full text:
A Molecular Approach to the Conservation and Management of the Bengal Tiger in Nepal
Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) is a majestic and highly endangered species found in South Asia. As an apex predator, it plays an important role in overall ecology. Much, however, still needs to be understood about this species. Prior to developing any effective conservation strategy, it is crucial to gather accurate data on a species. Conventionally used techniques such as camera traps have many limitations, such as extended field efforts (>40–50 days), difficulty in setting up cameras in dense forest habitats, and a high cost of field work. As an effective supplementary method, the use of non-invasive genetic techniques primarily based on scat (feces) samples have increased in recent years, providing a deeper understanding of the biology of many elusive and endangered species, including tigers. We have used these DNA techniques to understand the tiger and its habitat, uncover a wealth of information on sympatric biodiversity, and create a comprehensive tiger DNA database on a landscape level.
The following have contributed to this page