Symbiotic gut microbes have facilitated the success of herbivorous mammals, which are generally grouped into foregut- and hindgut-fermenters. However, rodents are primarily herbivorous and exhibit a variety of gastrointestinal anatomies. Most rodents house microbes in hindgut chambers, such as the caecum and colon. Some rodents also exhibit stomach segmentation with a foregut chamber proximal to the stomach. For over a century, scientists have hypothesized that this foregut chamber houses a microbial community, yet this has never been explicitly examined. We investigated the capacity of each of the gut regions to house microbes by measuring size, pH, bacterial cell density, concentrations of microbial metabolites and digesta transit time in woodrats (Neotoma spp.). We also compared microbial communities across gut chambers, as well as faeces, using 16S rRNA sequencing. This allowed us to test the appropriateness of using faeces as a proxy for microbial communities of other gut chambers. We found that woodrats house foregut microbial communities with similar density and volatile fatty acid concentrations to rumen ecosystems. Resident microbial communities varied between gut chambers, and faecal bacterial communities were significantly different from caecal and colonic communities. The foregut microbiota may provide a number of physiological services to the host.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics