Composition and similarity of bovine rumen microbiota across individual animals

PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e33306. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0033306. Epub 2012 Mar 14.


The bovine rumen houses a complex microbiota which is responsible for cattle's remarkable ability to convert indigestible plant mass into food products. Despite this ecosystem's enormous significance for humans, the composition and similarity of bacterial communities across different animals and the possible presence of some bacterial taxa in all animals' rumens have yet to be determined. We characterized the rumen bacterial populations of 16 individual lactating cows using tag amplicon pyrosequencing. Our data showed 51% similarity in bacterial taxa across samples when abundance and occurrence were analyzed using the Bray-Curtis metric. By adding taxon phylogeny to the analysis using a weighted UniFrac metric, the similarity increased to 82%. We also counted 32 genera that are shared by all samples, exhibiting high variability in abundance across samples. Taken together, our results suggest a core microbiome in the bovine rumen. Furthermore, although the bacterial taxa may vary considerably between cow rumens, they appear to be phylogenetically related. This suggests that the functional requirement imposed by the rumen ecological niche selects taxa that potentially share similar genetic features.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity*
  • Cattle
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Metagenome / genetics*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S / genetics
  • Rumen / microbiology*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S