Fecal bacterial diversity of human-habituated wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) at Mahale Mountains National Park, Western Tanzania.
Although the intestinal flora of chimpanzees has not been studied, insight into this dynamic environment can be obtained through studies on their feces. We analyzed fecal samples from human-habituated, wild chimpanzees at Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania, and compared microbial community profiles to determine if members of the same social group were similar. Between July and December 2007, we collected fresh fecal samples from 12 individuals: four juveniles, four adolescents, and four adults, including three parent-offspring pairs. Each sample was analyzed using Terminal-Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism of amplified 16S rRNA genes. Twelve different profiles were generated, having between 1 and 15 Terminal-Restriction Fragments (T-RFs). Overall, a total of 23 different T-RFs were produced. Putative assignments of T-RFs corresponded to the phyla Firmicutes (Clostridia, Bacilli, and Lactobacilli), Bacteroidetes, Tenericutes (Mollicutes Class), Actinobacteria, and Proteobacteria, as well as to uncultured or unidentified organisms. Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes phyla and Mollicutes Class were the most commonly assigned in 11, 8, and 8 of the samples, respectively, with this being the first report of Mollicutes in wild chimpanzees. Principal Components Analysis (PCA) revealed clustering of nine samples, and 80.5% of the diversity was accounted for by three samples. Morisita indices of community similarity ranged between 0.00 and 0.89, with dissimiliarity (<0.5) between most samples when compared two at a time. Our findings suggest that, although phylotypes are common among individuals, profiles among members of the same social group are host-specific. We conclude that factors other than social group, such as kinship and age, may influence fecal bacterial profiles of wild chimpanzees, and recommend that additional studies be conducted.