Host phylogeny, diet, and habitat differentiate the gut microbiomes of Darwin’s finches on Santa Cruz Island

Scientific Reports

Abstract

Darwin’s finches are an iconic example of an adaptive radiation with well-characterized evolutionary history, dietary preferences, and biogeography, offering an unparalleled opportunity to disentangle effects of evolutionary history on host microbiome from other factors like diet and habitat. Here, we characterize the gut microbiome in Darwin’s finches, comparing nine species that occupy diverse ecological niches on Santa Cruz island. The finch phylogeny showed moderate congruence with the microbiome, which was comprised mostly of the bacterial phyla Firmicutes, Actinobacteria, and Proteobacteria. Diet, as measured with stable isotope values and foraging observations, also correlated with microbiome differentiation. Additionally, each gut microbial community could easily be classified by the habitat of origin independent of host species. Altogether, these findings are consistent with a model of microbiome assembly in which environmental filtering via diet and habitat are primary determinants of the bacterial taxa present with lesser influence from the evolutionary history between finch species.

Loo, W. T., García-Loor, J., Dudaniec, R. Y., Kleindorfer, S., & Cavanaugh, C. M. (2019). Host phylogeny, diet, and habitat differentiate the gut microbiomes of Darwin’s finches on Santa Cruz Island. Scientific Reports, 9(1), [18781]. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-54869-6