Gut Site and Gut Morphology Predict Microbiome Structure and Function in Ecologically Diverse Lemurs

Lydia K. Greene, Erin A. McKenney, William Gasper, Claudia Wrampelmeier, Shivdeep Hayer, Erin E. Ehmke, Jonathan B. Clayton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most studies of wildlife gut microbiotas understandably rely on feces to approximate consortia along the gastrointestinal tract. We therefore compared microbiome structure and predicted metagenomic function in stomach, small intestinal, cecal, and colonic samples from 52 lemurs harvested during routine necropsies. The lemurs represent seven genera (Cheirogaleus, Daubentonia, Varecia, Hapalemur, Eulemur, Lemur, Propithecus) characterized by diverse feeding ecologies and gut morphologies. In particular, the hosts variably depend on fibrous foodstuffs and show correlative morphological complexity in their large intestines. Across host lineages, microbiome diversity, variability, membership, and function differed between the upper and lower gut, reflecting regional tradeoffs in available nutrients. These patterns related minimally to total gut length but were modulated by fermentation capacity (i.e., the ratio of small to large intestinal length). Irrespective of feeding strategy, host genera with limited fermentation capacity harbored more homogenized microbiome diversity along the gut, whereas those with expanded fermentation capacity harbored cecal and colonic microbiomes with greater diversity and abundant fermentative Ruminococcaceae taxa. While highlighting the value of curated sample repositories for retrospective comparisons, our results confirm that the need to survive on fibrous foods, either routinely or in hypervariable environments, can shape the morphological and microbial features of the lower gut.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMicrobial Ecology
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Duke Lemur Center
  • Feeding strategy
  • Gastrointestinal tract
  • Gut microbiota
  • Primate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Soil Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Gut Site and Gut Morphology Predict Microbiome Structure and Function in Ecologically Diverse Lemurs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this