Migratory Shorebird Gut Microbes are not Associated with Bivalve Prey in Monsoon Tropical Australia

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Migratory animals can carry symbionts over long distances. While well-studied for parasite and pathogen transmission, less is known about use of this route by other symbiotic taxa, particularly those non-pathogenic. Here we ask the question of whether gut bacteria can be spread between continents by long-distance bird migration, although gut microbiomes in birds may not be as stable or persistent as those of non-volant animals. We used amplicon sequencing of both bacterial 16S rRNA gene and Vibrio-centric hsp60 gene to determine whether the faecal bacteria of migratory great knots (Calidris tenuirostris) also occur in their main food source in Northern Australia or in nearby sand, comparing samples before and after the birds’ long-distance migration. Our data suggest that there is little connectivity among the bacterial microbiomes, except in the bivalve prey. Our results are consistent with previous studies finding that bird faecal microbiomes were not host-specific and contrast with those showing an influence of diet on bird faecal bacteria. We also found little connectivity among Vibrio spp. However, although faecal sample sizes were small, the dominance of different individual Vibrio spp. suggests that they may have been well-established in knot guts and thus capable of moving with them on migration. We suggest that the physiological impacts of a long-distance migration may have caused shifts in the phyla comprising great knot faecal communities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Microbiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


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