Are the gut microbial systems of giant pandas unstable?

Ran Yao, Zhisong Yang, Zheng Zhang, Ting Hu, Hua Chen, Feng Huang, Xiaodong Gu, Xuyu Yang, Guoqing Lu, Lifeng Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Animals have stable dominant gut microbiomes under similar diets. Similar diets can also lead to similar gut microbial communities within host species levels. Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) and red pandas (Ailurus fulgens) have had long-term and stable bamboo diets, and seem well adapted to this highly fibrous diet. When compared to the gut microbiomes of Père David's deer (Elaphurus davidianus), humans, cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), black-backed jackal (Canis-mesomelas), and black bear (Ursus thibetanus), giant panda gut microbiomes have high variation in the abundance of Pseudomonadaceae and Clostridiaceae, and are somewhat unstable. This high instability and dissimilarity may reflect an unstable gut environment, perturbation or selective pressure because of their carnivorous gastrointestinal system. A short digestive tract, brief digestion time and fast intestinal peristalsis may result in higher oxygen concentrations that select for the growth of aerobes and facultative anaerobes in giant pandas. Potential selection of high proportion of Pseudomonadaceae in giant panda (GP-HP) and red panda gut microbiomes may arise because of their postulated ability to degrade secondary compounds (e.g., cyanide compounds and aromatic compounds). However, high proportion of Clostridiaceae (GP-HF) may focus on cellulose and hemicellulose digestion. Thus, GP-HP and GP-HF groups have high dissimilarity on the functional level. These findings show that long-term similarities in diet do not always lead to similar or stable gut microbial system within the same host species and that other factors can drive the selection of gut taxa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere02480
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2019


  • Adaptation
  • Bacteria
  • Bamboo
  • Coevolution
  • Genome sequencing
  • Giant pandas
  • Gut microbial system
  • High-throughput sequencing
  • Microbiology
  • Population dynamics
  • Red pandas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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