Life history correlates of faecal bacterial species richness in a wild population of the blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus

Benskin, Clare and Rhodes, Glenn and Pickup, Roger and Mainwaring, Mark and Wilson, Ken and Hartley, Ian (2015) Life history correlates of faecal bacterial species richness in a wild population of the blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus. Ecology and Evolution, 5 (4). pp. 821-835. ISSN 2045-7758

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Very little is known about the normal gastrointestinal flora of wild birds, or how it might affect or reflect the host's life-history traits. The aim of this study was to survey the species richness of bacteria in the feces of a wild population of blue tits Cyanistes caeruleus and to explore the relationships between bacterial species richness and various life-history traits, such as age, sex, and reproductive success. Using PCR-TGGE, 55 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) were identified in blue tit feces. DNA sequencing revealed that the 16S rRNA gene was amplified from a diverse range of bacteria, including those that shared closest homology with Bacillus licheniformis, Campylobacter lari, Pseudomonas spp., and Salmonella spp. For adults, there was a significant negative relationship between bacterial species richness and the likelihood of being detected alive the following breeding season; bacterial richness was consistent across years but declined through the breeding season; and breeding pairs had significantly more similar bacterial richness than expected by chance alone. Reduced adult survival was correlated with the presence of an OTU most closely resembling C. lari; enhanced adult survival was associated with an OTU most similar to Arthrobacter spp. For nestlings, there was no significant change in bacterial species richness between the first and second week after hatching, and nestlings sharing the same nest had significantly more similar bacterial richness. Collectively, these results provide compelling evidence that bacterial species richness was associated with several aspects of the life history of their hosts.

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Journal Article
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Ecology and Evolution
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© 2015 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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13 Feb 2015 13:39
Last Modified:
22 Nov 2022 01:34