Analysis of the hydrogenotrophic microbiota of wild and captive black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) in palenque national park, Mexico

Noriko Nakamura, Katherine R. Amato, Paul Garber, Alejandro Estrada, Roderick Ian Mackie, H Rex Gaskins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intestinal methanogenesis is one of the major pathways for consumption of hydrogen produced by bacterial fermentation and is considered to affect the efficiency of host energy harvest; however, little information is available regarding the hydrogenotrophic pathways of nonhuman primates in the wild, in general, and of howler monkeys, in particular. Microbial fermentation of plant structural carbohydrates is an important feature in wild howlers owing to the high fiber and low available energy content of leaves, which make up the primary component of their diet. In contrast, captive howlers may consume greater quantities of fruits and vegetables that are higher in water, lower in fiber, and, along with commercial monkey chow commonly added to captive monkey diets, more readily digestible than the natural diet. In this study, we analyzed the composition of methanogens and sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) from fecal samples of black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) in the wild and in captivity. The hydrogenotrophic microbiota of three groups of monkeys was evaluated by PCR-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) fingerprinting, small clone library construction, and quantitative real-time PCR. Abundance of methanogens was lower than SRB in all howler monkey groups studied. DGGE banding patterns were highly similar within each wild and captive group but distinct among groups. Desulfovibrionales-enriched DGGE showed reduced microbial diversity in the captive animals compared with their wild counterparts. Taken together, the data demonstrate that environmental or dietary changes of the host imposed by captivity likely influence the composition of intestinal hydrogenotrophs in black howler monkeys.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)909-919
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican journal of primatology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Alouatta pigra
  • DGGE
  • Intestinal hydrogenotrophs
  • Quantitative PCR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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