Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Koalas have a funny diet - do they have funny bacteria?

12.05.2015

With their specialized diet of almost exclusively Eucalyptus leaves, do koalas require specialist microbes to help them digest their food? Scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) investigated the composition of bacterial communities in different digestion-associated organs but found no unusual or special microbial communities when they compared these with those of other mammals.

The study also demonstrates that non-invasive samples such as faecal samples commonly used to assess the composition of microbial communities may not provide an accurate account of the host gut microbiome. The study has just been published in the scientific journal “Scientific Reports”.


Koala

Barbara Feldmann, IZW

The koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) is an arboreal marsupial that has a unique diet consisting almost exclusively of Eucalyptus leaves. Eucalyptus foliage has been described as an “unpromising” dietary source for being low in nutrients but rich in compounds which are toxic to most animals.

Bacteria are thought to play an important role in the digestion of Eucalyptus leaves. However, whether such an exclusive diet influences the composition of koala bacterial communities, or microbiomes, is unknown.

An international team of scientists from the Department of Wildlife Diseases of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Berlin, Germany, University of the Sunshine Coast (Australia), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (USA) and Vienna Zoological Garden characterised the koala microbiomes using next generation sequencing.

The scientists found that koala oral and gut microbiomes were similar in composition to the microbiomes from the same body regions of other mammalian species. Therefore the unique diet of koalas does not seem to influence koala microbial communities inhabiting digestion-associated organs. Furthermore, rectal swabs and faeces were compared, for the first time using high-throughput sequencing, in order to understand whether these two sample types are equivalent in describing koala gut microbiome.

Rectal swabs contained all of the diversity present in faecal samples, along with additional taxa, suggesting that faecal bacterial communities may only represent a subsample of the complex bacterial communities inhabiting the gut. Moreover, the faecal microbiomes of the captive koalas from this study were compared with existing data on wild koalas to understand whether captivity results in major alterations of koala gut microbiome.

The results showed that the profile of captive and wild koalas were similar, suggesting that captivity may not compromise koala microbial health. Because koalas frequently suffer from ocular diseases caused by Chlamydia infection, the microbiome of the koala eye was also examined. This microbial community was very diverse, similar to other mammalian ocular microbiomes but with an unusually high representation of bacteria from a family not observed in other mammals.

Further research will be needed to determine whether this influences the susceptibility of koalas to infections by Chlamydia. This is the first study describing the composition of the eye microbiome of a non-human mammal by high-throughput sequencing and it establishes the healthy baseline for this body part to which microbiomes of diseased states can be compared.

Publication:
Alfano N, Courtiol A, Vielgrader H, Timms P, Roca AL, Greenwood AD (2015): Variation in koala microbiomes within and between individuals: effect of body region and captivity status. SCI REP. Doi: 10.1038/srep10189.

Contact:
Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW)
Alfred-Kowalke-Str. 17
10315 Berlin
Germany

Niccolò Alfano
Tel.: +49 30 5168-455
alfano@izw-berlin.de

Steven Seet
Tel.: +49 30 5168-125
seet@izw-berlin.de

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.izw-berlin.de

Saskia Donath | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH

nachricht A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>