Gut Microbiomes Differ Among Dietary Types & Stool Consistency in the Captive Red Wolf (Canis rufus)
Bragg M, Freeman EW, Lim HC, Songsasen N and Muletz-Wolz CR (2020) Gut Microbiomes Differ Among Dietary Types and Stool Consistency in the Captive Red Wolf (Canis rufus). Front. Microbiol. 11:590212. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.590212
Captive management of many wildlife species can be challenging, with individuals displaying health disorders that are not generally described in the wild population. Retrospective studies have identified gastrointestinal (GI) diseases, in particular inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), as the second leading cause of captive adult red wolf (Canis rufus) mortality. Recent molecular studies show that imbalanced gut microbial composition is tightly linked to IBD in the domestic dog. The goal of the present study was to address two main questions: (1) how do red wolf gut microbiomes differ between animals with loose stool consistency, indicative of GI issues, and those with normal stool consistency and (2) how does dietary type relate to stool consistency and red wolf gut microbiomes? Fresh fecal samples were collected from 48 captive wolves housed in eight facilities in the United States and from two wild wolves living in Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, NC, United States. For each individual, the stool consistency was categorized as loose or normal using a standardized protocol and their diet was categorized as either wild, whole meat, a mix of whole meat and kibble or kibble. We characterized gut microbiome structure using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing. We found that red wolves with a loose stool consistency differed in composition than wolves with normal stool consistency, suggesting a link between GI health and microbiome composition. Diet was not related to stool consistency but did significantly impact gut microbiome composition; gut microbiome composition of wolves fed a kibble diet were significantly different than the gut microbiome composition of wolves fed a mixed, whole meat and wild diet. Findings from this study increase the understanding of the interplay between diet and GI health in the red wolf, a critical piece of information needed to maintain a healthy red wolf population ex situ.