The gut microbiome and metabolome of saddleback tamarins (Leontocebus weddelli): Insights into the foraging ecology of a small-bodied primate

Paul A. Garber, Elizabeth K. Mallott, Leila M. Porter, Andres Gomez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Body mass is a strong predictor of diet and nutritional requirements across a wide range of mammalian taxa. In the case of small-bodied primates, because of their limited gut volume, rapid food passage rate, and high metabolic rate, they are hypothesized to maintain high digestive efficiency by exploiting foods rich in protein, fats, and readily available energy. However, our understanding of the dietary requirements of wild primates is limited because little is known concerning the contributions of their gut microbiome to the breakdown and assimilation of macronutrients and energy. To study how the gut microbiome contributes to the feeding ecology of a small-bodied primate, we analyzed the fecal microbiome composition and metabolome of 22 wild saddleback tamarins (adult body mass 360–390 g) in Northern Bolivia. Samples were analyzed using high-throughput Illumina sequencing of the 16 S rRNA gene V3-V5 regions, coupled with GC-MS metabolomic profiling. Our analysis revealed that the distal microbiome of Leontocebus weddelli is largely dominated by two main bacterial genera: Xylanibacter and Hallella (34.7 ± 14.7 and 22.6 ± 12.4%, respectively). A predictive analysis of functions likely carried out by bacteria in the tamarin gut demonstrated the dominance of membrane transport systems and carbohydrate metabolism as the predominant metabolic pathways. Moreover, given a fecal metabolome composed mainly of glucose, fructose, and lactic acid (21.7 ± 15.9%, 16.5 ± 10.7%, and 6.8 ± 5.5%, respectively), the processing of highly fermentable carbohydrates appears to play a central role in the nutritional ecology of these small-bodied primates. Finally, the results also show a potential influence of environmentally-derived bacteria in colonizing the tamarin gut. These results indicate high energetic turnover in the distal gut of Weddell's saddleback tamarin, likely influenced by dominant bacterial taxa that facilitate dietary dependence on highly digestible carbohydrates present in nectar, plant exudates, and ripe fruits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23003
JournalAmerican journal of primatology
Issue number10-11
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • gut microbiome
  • Leontocebus weddelli
  • metabolome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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