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Humans are not the only species that have social behaviors that affect their health. The University of Texas at Austin has found that Verreaux's sifaka, a species of wild lemur, have gut microbes that are affected by those they socialize with.
The findings show that humans are not the only ones who are affected by who we spend time with and where we live. The study has important implications for the health of the lemurs. Social interactions can expose individuals to pathogens, but they can also help with maintaining a healthy and diverse microbiome.
Understanding the communities associated with humans is important to understanding our development, immune function, metabolism and even our mood. Rebecca Lewis is an anthropology professor at UT Austin and co-author of the study. The social networks and communities in wild lemurs have been studied by our team. Chimpanzees get their gut microbes from other Chimpanzees through direct social contact and shared environmental exposure.
Lewis' work on sifaka lemurs made it possible to study the primate's social networks and communities over multiple years. One of the first long-term studies of the gut microbiomes of primates was conducted by researchers who were able to track 58 lemurs from six social groups over the course of five years.
The study looked at the effects that three aspects of socializing had on the animals' gut flora. The six social groups maintained distinct gut microbial signatures over the course of three dry seasons.
Lewis said that samples collected from group members were more similar to those collected from single individuals. People in a group change over time. New immigrants and people with less stable social ties had less change in their microbiome over time. Our results suggest that when individuals in a population break into smaller groups with strong social connections, this shapes the changing composition of gut microbial communities and may be important drivers of health and resilience in wild primate populations.
The sifakas' survival is dependent on a healthy gut microbiome. They rely on their gut microbiota to digest their food, and those without the right microbes are at risk of starving. If fewer lemurs interact with socially, it could lead to an impoverished gut microbiome, which in turn could decrease the likelihood of individuals' long-term survival, whether they are in captivity or degrading natural habitats.
The social groups that influence the dynamics of the wild sifaka gut microbiomes are described in a paper. There is a DOI for 10.1111/mec.16193.
The journal contains information about the ecology.
How social dynamics influence the gut microbes of wild lemurs was retrieved fromphys.org on December 6th, 2021.
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