Endangered Monkey Guts

The University of Minnesota recently ran a study on the bacteria found in the guts of two endangered species of monkeys: mantled howler monkeys and the red shanked doucs.

The researchers who conducted this study suspected dysbiosis, an imbalance in the microbial ecosystem of the digestive system, could play a role in the poor health that many of these two species tend to experience in captivity. After all, these species tend to eat as many as fifty seven distinct plant species in the wild--while consuming as few as one while in captivity. Lack of diversity in the diet (and a lack in fiber in general) have both been linked to dysbiosis in humans and animals alike.

The results seemed to confirm the hypothesis of these researchers: both species of monkeys had an enormous reduction in the number of good bacteria in their guts when they lived in captivity. Moreover, these monkeys’ guts tended to be populated with many bacteria native to the human microbiome.

Even animals that had not consumed antibiotics showed a lack of gut diversity. Additionally, the microbiome of monkeys in captivity deviated more from feral microbiome samples from their own species that from those of other species in captivity.

The takeaway from all these findings? The diets of monkeys in captivity may very well have a greater impact on their microbiomes than we imagined--and, moreover, the people and animals around them may also be influencing their microbial health. 

Expanding the contents of our diets can potentially help foster microbial diversity. How we can diversify them and which bacterial species are most important for a healthy gut are questions we need to answer. Stay tuned--ComosID will continue to cover the latest developments in microbial research.