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 When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short
23.03.2017 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

nachricht WPI team grows heart tissue on spinach leaves
23.03.2017 | Worcester Polytechnic Institute

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short

23.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Researchers use light to remotely control curvature of plastics

23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Sea ice extent sinks to record lows at both poles

23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>