The grasscutter (also known as the greater cane rat; Thryonomys swinderianus) is a large rodent native to West Africa that is currently under domestication process for meat production. However, little is known about the physiology of this species. In the present study, aiming to provide information about gut microbiota of the grasscutter and better understand its physiology, we investigated the intestinal microbiota of grasscutters and compared it with that of other livestock (cattle, goat, rabbit, and sheep) using 16S rRNA metagenomics analysis. Similar to the other herbivorous animals, bacteria classified as Bacteroidales, Clostridiales, Ruminococcaceae, and Lachnospiraceae were abundant in the microbiome of grasscutters. However, Prevotella and Treponema bacteria, which have fiber fermentation ability, were especially abundant in grasscutters, where the relative abundance of these genera was higher than that in the other animals. The presence of these genera might confer grasscutters the ability to easily breakdown dietary fibers. Diets for grasscutters should be made from ingredients not consumed by humans to avoid competition for resources and the ability to digest fibers may allow the use of fiber-rich feed materials not used by humans. Our findings serve as reference and support future studies on changes in the gut microbiota of the grasscutter as domestication progresses in order to establish appropriate feeding methods and captivity conditions.
Keywords: Prevotella; Treponema; cattle; goat; grasscutter; microbiome; rabbit; sheep.