Skip to main content

Microtus agrestis microbiome reads, taxonomy and related animal metadata


Fenn, Jonathan (2023), Microtus agrestis microbiome reads, taxonomy and related animal metadata, Dryad, Dataset,


Mammalian gastrointestinal microbiomes are highly variable, both within individuals and across populations, with changes linked to time and ageing being widely reported. Discerning patterns of change in wild mammal populations can therefore prove challenging. We used high-throughput community sequencing methods to characterise the microbiome of wild field voles (Microtus agrestis) from faecal samples collected across 12 live-trapping field sessions, and then at cull. Changes in α- and β-diversity were modelled over three timescales. Short-term differences (following 1–2 days captivity) were analysed between capture and cull, to ascertain the degree to which the microbiome can change following a rapid change in environment. Medium-term changes were measured between successive trapping sessions (12–16 days apart), and long-term changes between the first and final capture of an individual (from 24 to 129 days). The short period between capture and cull was characterised by a marked loss of species richness, while over medium- and long-term in the field, richness slightly increased. Changes across both short and long timescales indicated shifts from a Firmicutes-dominant to a Bacteroidetes-dominant microbiome. Dramatic changes following captivity indicate that changes in microbiome diversity can be rapid, following a change of environment (food sources, temperature, lighting etc.). Medium- and long-term patterns of change indicate an accrual of gut bacteria associated with ageing, with these new bacteria being predominately represented by Bacteroidetes. While the patterns of change observed are unlikely to be universal to wild mammal populations, the potential for analogous shifts across timescales should be considered whenever studying wild animal microbiomes. This is especially true if studies involve animal captivity, as there are potential ramifications both for animal health, and the validity of the data itself as a reflection of a ‘natural’ state of an animal.


This dataset comprises read count data of bacterial operational taxonomic units (OTUs) sequenced from faeces and caecum samples, taken from a wild population of the field vole Microtus agrestis, alongside relevant animal metadata and bacterial OTU taxonomy. Also, there is a phylogenetic tree data of the bacterial OTUs sequenced.

Usage notes

The database can be opened with Microsoft Excel, with read counts, metadata and taxonomy found on separate worksheets. Both the database and TREE file can be opened and analysed in the open-source statistics software R, using packages like phyloseq.


Natural Environment Research Council, Award: NE/L013452/1