Habitat and diet shape the guts of Alaskan brown bears • Earth.com

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A new study from Northern Michigan University (NMU) found that there is significant variation in the gut microbiome of Alaskan brown bears (arctic ursus), depending on where the bears lived and what they usually ate. These findings further shed light on the complex relationship between wildlife habitat, diet, and gut microbiome diversity.

“The gut microbiome is the ecosystem of microbial life that populates an animal’s digestive system – and this microbiome plays a major role in an animal’s well-being,” said the study co-author. , Erin McKenney, assistant professor of applied ecology at the University of North Carolina. State University. “Everything we learn about these microbiomes helps us make more informed decisions to support wildlife health.”

According to study co-author Grant Hilderbrand, associate regional director of resources for the National Park Service in Alaska, the habitats of Alaskan brown bears are currently changing. “The gut microbiome serves as a novel diagnostic tool for understanding the health of wildlife populations. It can also help us predict how animal health will change as the environment changes. The study we performed here lays the foundation to advance our understanding of gut microbiomes in iconic Alaskan brown bears,” he explained.

Researchers analyzed microbial DNA found in 66 fecal samples from 51 brown bears in three national parks and preserves (Katmai, Lake Clark and Gates of the Arctic), and found significant differences in the diversity of bear microbiomes at each. of the three locations.

“Katmai had the most diversity and also had the most diverse range of food sources available. Gates of the Arctic, which had the most limited range of food resources, also had bears with the least diverse gut microbiomes. In other words, we found what we expected: the more diverse the diet, the more diverse the gut microbiome,” reported lead study author Sarah Trujillo, who worked on the study. study while a graduate researcher at NMU.

“However, although we found clear distinctions in microbiome diversity in each park, these differences could not be fully explained by diet alone. There seems to be something else at play that we don’t yet fully understand. This is an area for future research,” she concluded.

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

By Andrei Ionescu, Terre.com Personal editor

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