Exploring the bovine rumen bacterial community from birth to adulthood

ISME J. 2013 Jun;7(6):1069-79. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2013.2. Epub 2013 Feb 21.


The mammalian gut microbiota is essential in shaping many of its host's functional attributes. One such microbiota resides in the bovine digestive tract in a compartment termed as the rumen. The rumen microbiota is necessary for the proper physiological development of the rumen and for the animal's ability to digest and convert plant mass into food products, making it highly significant to humans. The establishment of this microbial population and the changes occurring with the host's age are important for understanding this key microbial community. Despite its importance, little information about colonization of the microbial populations in newborn animals, and the gradual changes occurring thereafter, exists. Here, we characterized the overall bovine ruminal bacterial populations of five age groups, from 1-day-old calves to 2-year-old cows. We describe the changes occurring in the rumen ecosystem after birth, reflected by a decline in aerobic and facultative anaerobic taxa and an increase in anaerobic ones. Some rumen bacteria that are essential for mature rumen function could be detected as early as 1 day after birth, long before the rumen is active or even before ingestion of plant material occurs. The diversity and within-group similarity increased with age, suggesting a more diverse but homogeneous and specific mature community, compared with the more heterogeneous and less diverse primary community. In addition, a convergence toward a mature bacterial arrangement with age was observed. These findings have also been reported for human gut microbiota, suggesting that similar forces drive the establishment of gut microbiotas in these two distinct mammalian digestive systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / classification*
  • Cattle / growth & development*
  • Cattle / microbiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Rumen / microbiology*