Novel rumen bacterial diversity in two geographically separated sub-species of reindeer

Monica A. Sundset, Kirsti E. Præsteng, Isaac K.O. Cann, Svein D. Mathiesen, Roderick I. MacKie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Svalbard reindeer (Rangifer tarandus platyrhynchus) live under austere nutritional conditions on the high-arctic archipelago of Svalbard, while semi-domesticated Norwegian reindeer (R. tarandus tarandus) migrate between lush coastal summer pastures and inland winter pastures with lichens on mainland Norway. Svalbard reindeer are known to have high rumen concentrations of cellulolytic bacteria, ranging from 15% of the viable population in summer to 35% in winter, compared to only 2.5% in Norwegian reindeer. Their rumen bacterial diversity was investigated through comparative analyses of 16S rRNA gene sequences (∼1.5 kb in length) generated from clone libraries (n = 121) and bacterial isolates (n = 51). LIBSHUFF comparisons of the composition of the two 16S rRNA libraries from Norwegian reindeer showed a significant effect of artificial feeding compared to natural pasture, but failed to yield significant differences between libraries from Norwegian reindeer and Svalbard reindeer. The combined sequences from reindeer were not significantly different from those reported in wild Thompson's gazelle in Kenya but did differ from those reported in domestic cattle in Japan. A total of 90 distinct operational taxonomic units (OTUs) were identified by employing a criterion of 97% similarity, while the Chao1 index estimated the reindeer bacterial rumen population richness at 698 OTUs. The majority of the clone library sequences (92.5%) represented novel strains with <97% identity to any known sequence in the public database, most of them affiliated with the bacterial phylum Firmicutes (low G+C Gram-positives) related to the order Clostridiales (76.7%), while Gram-negative bacteria in the Bacteriodales (Prevotella-Bacteroides group) contributed to 22.5%. Also, six of the isolates were putatively novel strains, possibly representing new species in the Clostridium subphylum (cluster XIVa), Actinomyces and Butyrivibrio.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)424-438
Number of pages15
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Soil Science


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