Data from: Kinship, inbreeding, and fine-scale spatial structure influence gut microbiota in a hindgut-fermenting tortoise
Yuan, Michael L. et al. (2015), Data from: Kinship, inbreeding, and fine-scale spatial structure influence gut microbiota in a hindgut-fermenting tortoise, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.54bm8
Herbivorous vertebrates rely on complex communities of mutualistic gut bacteria to facilitate the digestion of celluloses and hemicelluloses. Gut microbes are often convergent based on diet and gut morphology across a phylogenetically diverse group of mammals. However, little is known about microbial communities of herbivorous hindgut-fermenting reptiles. Here, we investigate how factors at the individual level might constrain the composition of gut microbes in an obligate herbivorous reptile. Using multiplexed 16S rRNA gene sequencing, we characterized the faecal microbial community of a population of gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) and examined how age, genetic diversity, spatial structure and kinship influence differences among individuals. We recovered phylotypes associated with known cellulolytic function, including candidate phylum Termite Group 3, suggesting their importance for gopher tortoise digestion. Although host genetic structure did not explain variation in microbial composition and community structure, we found that fine-scale spatial structure, inbreeding, degree of relatedness and possibly ontogeny shaped patterns of diversity in faecal microbiomes of gopher tortoises. Our findings corroborate widespread convergence of faecal-associated microbes based on gut morphology and diet and demonstrate the role of spatial and demographic structure in driving differentiation of gut microbiota in natural populations.