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FEMS Microbiology Ecology
Vol. 81, No.
3, 2012; Pages: 648 - 659

Molecular characterization of the microbial communities in the subcaudal gland secretion of the European badger (Meles meles)

Yung Wa Sin, Christina D. Buesching, Terry Burke, David W. Macdonald

Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, Recanati-Kaplan Centre, University of Oxford, Tubney, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, UK.


Many mammals possess specialized scent glands, which convey information about the marking individual. As the chemical profile of scent marks is likely to be affected by bacteria metabolizing the primary gland products, the variation in bacterial communities between different individuals has been proposed to underpin olfactory communication. However, few studies have investigated the dependency of microbiota residing in the scent organs on the host's individual-specific parameters. Here, we used terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis of the PCR-amplified 16S rRNA gene and clone library construction to investigate the microbial communities in the subcaudal gland secretion of the European badger (Meles meles). As the secretion has been shown to encode individual-specific information, we investigated the correlation of the microbiota with different individual-specific parameters (age, sex, body condition, reproductive status, and season). We discovered a high number of bacterial species (56 operational taxonomic units from four phyla: Actinobacteria, Firmicutes, Proteobacteria, and Bacteroidetes), dominated by Actinobacteria (76.0%). The bacterial communities of cubs and adults differed significantly. Cubs possessed considerably more diverse communities dominated by Firmicutes, while in adults the communities were less diverse and dominated by Actinobacteria, suggesting that the acquisition of a ‘mature bacterial community’ is an ontogenetic process related to physiological changes during maturation.

Keywords: Actinobacteria; mustelid; scent mark; semiochemical; symbiotic bacteria; terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism



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