Effects of Host Species Identity and Diet on the Biodiversity of the Microbiota in Puerto Rican Bats

Curr Microbiol. 2021 Sep;78(9):3526-3540. doi: 10.1007/s00284-021-02607-5. Epub 2021 Jul 27.


Microbiota perform vital functions for their mammalian hosts, making them potential drivers of host evolution. Understanding effects of environmental factors and host characteristics on the composition and biodiversity of the microbiota may provide novel insights into the origin and maintenance of these symbiotic relationships. Our goals were to (1) characterize biodiversity of oral and rectal microbiota in bats from Puerto Rico; and (2) determine the effects of geographic location and host characteristics on that biodiversity. We collected bats and their microbiota from three sites, and used four metrics (species richness, Shannon diversity, Camargo evenness, Berger-Parker dominance) to characterize biodiversity. We quantified the relative importance of site, host sex, host species-identity, and host foraging-guild on biodiversity of the microbiota. Microbe biodiversity was highly variable among conspecifics. Geographical location exhibited consistent effects, whereas host sex did not. Within each host guild, host species exhibited consistent differences in biodiversity of oral microbiota and of rectal microbiota. Oral microbe biodiversity was indistinguishable between guilds, whereas rectal microbe biodiversity was significantly greater in carnivores than in herbivores. The high intraspecific and spatial variation in microbe biodiversity necessitate a relatively large number of samples to statistically isolate the effects of environmental or host characteristics on the microbiota. Species-specific biodiversity of oral microbiota suggests these communities are structured by direct interactions with the host immune system via epithelial receptors. In contrast, the number of microbial taxa that a host gut supports may be driven by host diet-diversity or composition.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity
  • Chiroptera*
  • Diet
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Microbiota*
  • Puerto Rico