Title Distinct gut microbiotas between southern elephant seals and Weddell seals of Antarctica
Author Mincheol Kim, Hyunjun Cho, and Won Young Lee*
Address Division of Polar Life Sciences, Korea Polar Research Institute, Incheon 21990, Republic of Korea
Bibliography Journal of Microbiology, 58(12),1018–1026, 2020,
DOI 10.1007/s12275-020-0524-3
Key Words gut microbiome, marine mammal, Phocidae, Antarctic seal, NMR
Abstract The gut microbiome provides ecological information about host animals, but we still have limited knowledge of the gut microbiome, particularly for animals inhabiting remote locations, such as Antarctica. Here, we compared fecal microbiota between southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) and Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddelli), that are top predatory marine mammals in the Antarctic ecosystem, using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing and assessed the relationships of the gut microbial communities to functional profiles using gut metabolite analysis. The bacterial community did not differ significantly by host species or sex at the phylum level, but the distinction at the family level was obvious. The family Ruminococcaceae (Firmicutes) was more abundant in southern elephant seals than in Weddell seals, and the families Acidaminococcaceae (Firmicutes) and Pasteurellaceae (Gammaproteobacteria) were uniquely present in Weddell seals. The fecal bacterial community structure was distinctively clustered by host species, with only 6.7% of amplicon sequence variants (ASVs) shared between host species. This result implies that host phylogeny rather than other factors, such as diet or age, could be the major driver of fecal microbiotic diversification. Interestingly, there was no apparent sex effect on bacterial community structure in Weddell seals, but the effect of sex was pronounced in adult southern elephant seals mainly due to the prevalence of Edwardsiella sp., suggesting that extreme sexual dimorphism may modulate the gut microbiota of southern elephant seals. Unlike the clear distinction in the taxonomic composition of fecal bacterial communities, there were no discernible differences in the profiles of potential microbial functions and gut metabolites between host species or sexes, indicating that functional redundancy dominates the gut microbiota of seals surveyed in this study.