Social relationships: key to gut microbiome composition in wild redfronted lemurs?

Dr. Claudia Fichtel, Göttingen
Prof. Dr. Rolf Daniel, Göttingen

PhD student: Sonia Tatiana Murillo Corrales


Social relationships play a pivotal role in mediating the links between sociality and health. Social relationships emerge from repeated interactions, which mediate the physiological stress response and but also enhance the risk of parasite transmission. Apart from these potentially costly effects on individual health, social interactions may also benefit individuals by transmitting not only microbes but also microbial-mediated pathogen resistance, thereby reducing the costs of group-living. The gut microbiota consists of microbial species that influence the immune system and, hence, health and ultimately fitness of their hosts. The composition of the gut microbiome is influenced by intrinsic, host-related, factors but also by external factors that appear to modify the microbial composition according to the local environmental and social conditions. In this study, we propose to measure simultaneously several intrinsic host-related (age, sex, relatedness, physiological stress response) and extrinsic factors (diet, social interactions, parasite status) shaping gut microbial community variation between and within individuals over time in five groups of wild redfronted lemurs (Eulemur rufifrons). In particular, we aim to understand how these factors are interrelated and how social relationships mediate both the physiological stress response and microbiome composition. With this study, we contribute to the emerging understanding of the interrelationship of factors influencing gut microbiota compositional dynamics and, thus, central links of the sociality-health nexus in a wild primate.

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