Correlation and Influence of Seasonal Variation of Diet with Gut Microbiota Diversity and Metabolism Profile of Chipmunk

Animals (Basel). 2022 Sep 27;12(19):2586. doi: 10.3390/ani12192586.


Tamias Sibiricus is the only member of the genus Tamias, a significant and vigorous seed distributor and vital food for their predators. No information is known about the strict diet, gut microbiota structure, and metabolism profile of chipmunks and how they diversify seasonally. The above factors, as well as flexibility toward seasonal shifts, are critical in defining its growth rates, health, survivorship, and population stability. This study explored the diet, gut microbiota composition, and chipmunk metabolism. Additionally, the influence of different seasons was also investigated by using next-generation sequencing. Results revealed that seasons strongly affected a diet: streptophyte accounted for 37% in spring, which was lower than in summer (34.3%) and autumn (31.4%). Further, Ascomycota was observed at 43.8% in spring, which reduced to 36.6% in summer and the lowest (31.3%) in autumn. Whereas, nematodes showed maximum abundance from spring (15.8%) to summer (20.6%) and autumn (24.1%). These results signify the insectivorous nature of the chipmunk in summer and autumn. While herbivorous and fungivorous nature in spring. The DNA analysis revealed that chipmunk mainly feeds on fungi, including Aspergillus and Penicillium genus. Similar to diet composition, the microbiome also exhibited highly significant dissimilarity (p < 0.001, R = 0.235) between spring/autumn and spring/summer seasons. Proteobacteria (35.45%), Firmicutes (26.7%), and Bacteroidetes (23.59%) were shown to be the better discriminators as they contributed the most to causing differences between seasons. Moreover, PICRUSt showed that the assimilation of nutrients were also varied seasonally. The abundance of carbohydrates, lipids, nucleotides, xenobiotics, energy, terpenoids, and polyketides metabolism was higher in spring than in other seasons. Our study illustrates that seasonal reconstruction in the chipmunk diet has a significant role in shaping temporal variations in gut microbial community structure and metabolism profile.

Keywords: chipmunk; diet composition; gut microbiota; metabolism; seasonal variations.