Prenatal transfer of gut bacteria occurs in birds: evidence from rock pigeons

Activiteit: Academic presentationAcademic


Gut bacteria are vital for proper postnatal development of most organs and the immune and metabolic systems of their hosts, and likely also important for prenatal development. Prenatal transfer of gut bacteria from mother to offspring is shown in four mammalian species including humans, yet 92% of the vertebrates are oviparous. We hypothesize that also oviparous vertebrates such as birds, prenatally transmit gut bacteria. We investigated this in captive rock pigeons (Columba livia) by comparing the microbiome (bacterial community) of the very first faeces of 21 neonates with the cloacal microbiome of 5 females. Neonatal faeces contained a well-established and diverse microbiome. Its composition resembled the female cloacal microbiome, as indicated by multiple shared phyla, orders, families and genera. While females shared only 0.3% of the 1030 female OTUs, neonates shared 16.1% of the total number of OTUs present (2881) with females, and 45.5% of their core microbiome. These findings suggest that prenatal gut bacterial transfer does occur in birds. Our results support the hypothesis that gut bacteria may be important for proper prenatal development. Prenatal transfer presents a potential heritability pathway of gut bacteria in vertebrates, which may be subjected to natural selection as part of the host-microbiome complex.
EvenementstitelNetherlands Annual Ecology Meeting 2019
Organisator Netherlands Ecological Research Network (NERN)
LocatieLunteren, NetherlandsToon op kaart
Mate van erkenningNational