Social behaviour and gut microbiota in red-bellied lemurs (Eulemur rubriventer): In search of the role of immunity in the evolution of sociality

Aura Raulo, Lasse Ruokolainen, Avery Lane, Katherine Amato, Rob Knight, Steven Leigh, Rebecca Stumpf, Bryan White, Karen E. Nelson, Andrea L. Baden, Stacey R. Tecot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations

Abstract

Vertebrate gut microbiota form a key component of immunity and a dynamic link between an individual and the ecosystem. Microbiota might play a role in social systems as well, because microbes are transmitted during social contact and can affect host behaviour. Combining methods from behavioural and molecular research, we describe the relationship between social dynamics and gut microbiota of a group-living cooperative species of primate, the red-bellied lemur (Eulemur rubriventer). Specifically, we ask whether patterns of social contact (group membership, group size, position in social network, individual sociality) are associated with patterns of gut microbial composition (diversity and similarity) between individuals and across time. Red-bellied lemurs were found to have gut microbiota with slight temporal fluctuations and strong social group-specific composition. Contrary to expectations, individual sociality was negatively associated with gut microbial diversity. However, position within the social network predicted gut microbial composition. These results emphasize the role of the social environment in determining the microbiota of adult animals. Since social transmission of gut microbiota has the potential to enhance immunity, microbiota might have played an escalating role in the evolution of sociality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)388-399
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Volume87
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2018

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Keywords

  • cooperation
  • immunity
  • lemur
  • microbial transmission
  • microbiota
  • social network
  • sociality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

Cite this

Raulo, A., Ruokolainen, L., Lane, A., Amato, K., Knight, R., Leigh, S., Stumpf, R., White, B., Nelson, K. E., Baden, A. L., & Tecot, S. R. (2018). Social behaviour and gut microbiota in red-bellied lemurs (Eulemur rubriventer): In search of the role of immunity in the evolution of sociality. Journal of Animal Ecology, 87(2), 388-399. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12781