Vertebrates evolved in concert with bacteria and have developed essential mutualistic relationships. Gut bacteria are vital for the postnatal development of most organs and the immune and metabolic systems and may likewise play a role during prenatal development. Prenatal transfer of gut bacteria is shown in four mammalian species, including humans. For the 92% of the vertebrates that are oviparous, prenatal transfer is debated, but it has been demonstrated in domestic chicken. We hypothesize that also non-domestic birds can prenatally transmit gut bacteria. We investigated this in medium-sized Rock pigeon (Columba livia), ensuring neonates producing fair-sized first faeces. The first faeces of 21 neonate rock pigeons hatched in an incubator, contained a microbiome (bacterial community) the composition of which resembled the cloacal microbiome of females sampled from the same population (N = 5) as indicated by multiple shared phyla, orders, families, and genera. Neonates and females shared 16.1% of the total number of OTUs present (2881), and neonates shared 45.5% of their core microbiome with females. In contrast, the five females shared only 0.3% of the 1030 female OTUs present. These findings suggest that prenatal gut bacterial transfer may occur in birds. Our results support the hypothesis that gut bacteria may be important for prenatal development and present a heritability pathway of gut bacteria in vertebrates.
- INTESTINAL MICROBIOTA
- EGG VIABILITY
Dietz, M. (Creator), Falcao Salles, J. (Creator), Hsu, B. (Creator), Dijkstra, C. (Creator), Groothuis, A. (Creator), van der Velde, M. (Creator), Verkuil, Y. (Creator) & Tieleman, I. (Creator), University of Groningen, 9-Jan-2020