Comparative analysis of the gut microbiota of wild wintering whooper swans (Cygnus Cygnus), captive black swans (Cygnus Atratus), and mute swans (Cygnus Olor) in Sanmenxia Swan National Wetland Park of China

By Jun-Xian Mi, Kai-Li Liu, Wen-Li Ding, Ming-Hui Zhang, Xue-Fei Wang, Aftab Shaukat, Mujeeb Ur Rehman, Xi-Lan Jiao & Shu-Cheng Huang 

The gastrointestinal microbiota, a complex ecosystem, is involved in the physiological activities of hosts and the development of diseases. Birds occupy a critical ecological niche in the ecosystem, performing a variety of ecological functions and possessing a complex gut microbiota composition.

A pair of Black Swans with cygnet

However, the gut microbiota of wild and captive birds has received less attention in the same region. We profiled the fecal gut microbiome of wild wintering whooper swans (Cygnus Cygnus; Cyg group, n = 25), captive black swans (Cygnus Atratus; Atr group, n = 20), and mute swans (Cygnus Olor; Olor group, n = 30) using 16S rRNA gene sequencing to reveal differences in the gut microbial ecology. The results revealed that the three species of swans differed significantly in terms of the alpha and beta diversity of their gut microbiota, as measured by ACE, Chao1, Simpson and Shannon indices, principal coordinates analysis (PCoA) and non-metricmulti-dimensional scaling (NMDS) respectively. Based on the results of the linear discriminant analysis effect size (LEfSe) and random forest analysis, we found that there were substantial differences in the relative abundance of Gottschalkia, Trichococcus, Enterococcus, and Kurthia among the three groups.

Whooper Swan by Richard Taylor-Jones, Black Swans by Emlyn Jones and Mute Swan by Paul Jarvis

Furthermore, an advantageous pattern of interactions between microorganisms was shown by the association network analysis. Among these, Gottschalkia had the higher area under curve (AUC), which was 0.939 (CI = 0.879–0.999), indicating that it might be used as a biomarker to distinguish between wild and captive black swans. Additionally, PICRUSt2 predictions indicated significant differences in gut microbiota functions between wild and captive trumpeter swans, with the gut microbiota functions of Cyg group focusing on carbohydrate metabolism, membrane transport, cofactor, and vitamin metabolism pathways, the Atr group on lipid metabolism, and the Olor group on cell motility, amino acid metabolism, and replication and repair pathways. These findings showed that the gut microbiota of wild and captive swans differed, which is beneficial to understand the gut microecology of swans and to improve regional wildlife conservation strategies.

The full article can be found here