Lemur Gut Microeukaryotic Community Variation Is Not Associated with Host Phylogeny, Diet, or Habitat

Mariah E. Donohue, Zoe L. Hert, Carly E. Karrick, Amanda K. Rowe, Patricia C. Wright, Lovasoa J. Randriamanandaza, François Zakamanana, Eva Stela Nomenjanahary, Kathryn M. Everson, David W. Weisrock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Identifying the major forces driving variation in gut microbiomes enhances our understanding of how and why symbioses between hosts and microbes evolved. Gut prokaryotic community variation is often closely associated with host evolutionary and ecological variables. Whether these same factors drive variation in other microbial taxa occupying the animal gut remains largely untested. Here, we present a one-to-one comparison of gut prokaryotic (16S rRNA metabarcoding) and microeukaryotic (18S rRNA metabarcoding) community patterning among 12 species of wild lemurs. Lemurs were sampled from dry forests and rainforests of southeastern Madagascar and display a range of phylogenetic and ecological niche diversity. We found that while lemur gut prokaryotic community diversity and composition vary with host taxonomy, diet, and habitat, gut microeukaryotic communities have no detectable association with any of these factors. We conclude that gut microeukaryotic community composition is largely random, while gut prokaryotic communities are conserved among host species. It is likely that a greater proportion of gut microeukaryotic communities comprise taxa with commensal, transient, and/or parasitic symbioses compared with gut prokaryotes, many of which form long-term relationships with the host and perform important biological functions. Our study highlights the importance of greater specificity in microbiome research; the gut microbiome contains many “omes” (e.g., prokaryome, eukaryome), each comprising different microbial taxa shaped by unique selective pressures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2149-2160
Number of pages12
JournalMicrobial Ecology
Issue number3
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the Madagascar Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Ecology; and Madagascar National Parks in Andringitra National Park, Isalo National Park, Ranomafana National Park, and Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park for allowing us to conduct this field research. We thank Centre ValBio research station and MICET/ICTE for providing logistical support in Madagascar.

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the following funders: the Animal Behaviour Society Student Research Grant; the American Society of Primatologists General Small Grant; the Global Wildlife Conservation’s Lemur Conservation Action Fund and IUCN’s Save Our Species (SOS); Grant-in-Aid of Research from Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society; HHMI Sustaining Excellence-2014 grant (#52008116), Primate Conservation, Inc.; Rowe-Wright Primate Fund; Society of Systematic Biologists Graduate Research Award; a Stony Brook University Graduate Student Employment Union Professional Development Award; a Stony Brook University Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences Research Award; and the University of Kentucky Ribble Endowment Fund.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Community ecology
  • Gut microbiome
  • Lemur
  • Madagascar
  • Metabarcoding
  • Microeukaryotes
  • Phylogeny
  • Phylosymbiosis
  • Primate
  • Prokaryotes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Soil Science


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