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 On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
18.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

nachricht New gene catalog of ocean microbiome reveals surprises
18.08.2017 | University of Hawaii at Manoa

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New gene catalog of ocean microbiome reveals surprises

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Astrophysicists explain the mysterious behavior of cosmic rays

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

AI implications: Engineer's model lays groundwork for machine-learning device

18.08.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>