Mammalian pregnancy can alter the diversity, membership and structure of the maternal gut microbiota, but it is unclear whether this phenomenon occurs in vertebrates with different reproductive strategies. We conducted 16S rRNA bacterial inventories to investigate whether oviparous lizards exhibit shifts in gut microbiota similar to those observed in mammals. Using wild-caught eastern fence lizards from Alabama, USA, we collected and extracted fecal DNA from gravid and non-gravid individuals over 54 days in captivity. We predicted that, like mammals, the alpha diversity of lizard gut microbiota would decrease over gestation, and that inter-individual variation in community composition would increase. Indeed, we found that individuals in late-gestation harbored lower gut bacterial richness compared to non-gravid females. Lizard gut microbial communities of late-gestational females exhibited higher pairwise distances for both community membership and community structure compared to earlier gestation stages, indicating a higher degree of inter-individual variation as gestation progressed. Additionally, we found that the relative abundance and prevalence of the candidate phylum Melainabacteria tended to decrease over the course of gestation. While the consequences of these specific alterations are unknown, our results suggest that a general restructuring of gut microbial communities over gestation may be widespread across vertebrate reproductive strategies.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology