Habitat fragmentation is associated to gut microbiota diversity of an endangered primate: implications for conservation

Sci Rep. 2015 Oct 7;5:14862. doi: 10.1038/srep14862.


The expansion of agriculture is shrinking pristine forest areas worldwide, jeopardizing the persistence of their wild inhabitants. The Udzungwa red colobus monkey (Procolobus gordonorum) is among the most threatened primate species in Africa. Primarily arboreal and highly sensitive to hunting and habitat destruction, they provide a critical model to understanding whether anthropogenic disturbance impacts gut microbiota diversity. We sampled seven social groups inhabiting two forests (disturbed vs. undisturbed) in the Udzungwa Mountains of Tanzania. While Ruminococcaceae and Lachnospiraceae dominated in all individuals, reflecting their role in extracting energy from folivorous diets, analysis of genus composition showed a marked diversification across habitats, with gut microbiota α-diversity significantly higher in the undisturbed forest. Functional analysis suggests that such variation may be associated with food plant diversity in natural versus human-modified habitats, requiring metabolic pathways to digest xenobiotics. Thus, the effects of changes in gut microbiota should not be ignored to conserve endangered populations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Animals
  • Bacteroidetes / classification
  • Bacteroidetes / physiology
  • Biodiversity*
  • Colobus / microbiology*
  • Colobus / physiology
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Diet
  • Ecosystem
  • Endangered Species
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Firmicutes / classification
  • Firmicutes / physiology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny*
  • Plants / chemistry
  • Proteobacteria / classification
  • Proteobacteria / physiology
  • Spirochaeta / classification
  • Spirochaeta / physiology
  • Tanzania
  • Verrucomicrobia / classification
  • Verrucomicrobia / physiology