We examined the seasonal changes of the cecal microbiota of captive arctic ground squirrels (Urocitellus parryii) by measuring microbial diversity and composition, total bacterial density and viability, and short-chain fatty acid concentrations at four sample periods (summer, torpor, interbout arousal, and posthibernation). Abundance of Firmicutes was lower, whereas abundances of Bacteroidetes, Verrucomicrobia, and Proteobacteria were higher during torpor and interbout arousal than in summer. Bacterial densities and percentages of live bacteria were significantly higher in summer than during torpor and interbout arousal. Likewise, total short-chain fatty acid concentrations were significantly greater during summer than during torpor and interbout arousal. Concentrations of individual short-chain fatty acids varied across sample periods, with butyrate concentrations higher and acetate concentrations lower during summer than at all other sample periods. Characteristics of the gut community posthibernation were more similar to those during torpor and interbout arousal than to those during summer. However, higher abundances of the genera Bacteroides and Akkermansia occurred during posthibernation than during interbout arousal and torpor. Collectively, our results clearly demonstrate that seasonal changes in physiology associated with hibernation and activity affect the gut microbial community in the arctic ground squirrel. Importantly, similarities between the gut microbiota of arctic ground squirrels and thirteen-lined ground squirrels suggest the potential for a core microbiota during hibernation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Food Science
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology