Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 96, Issue 5, pp 1361–1369 | Cite as

Intestinal microbiota associated with differential feed conversion efficiency in chickens

  • Dragana StanleyEmail author
  • Stuart E. Denman
  • Robert J. Hughes
  • Mark S. Geier
  • Tamsyn M. Crowley
  • Honglei Chen
  • Volker R. Haring
  • Robert J. Moore
Environmental biotechnology


Analysis of model systems, for example in mice, has shown that the microbiota in the gastrointestinal tract can play an important role in the efficiency of energy extraction from diets. The study reported here aimed to determine whether there are correlations between gastrointestinal tract microbiota population structure and energy use in chickens. Efficiency in converting food into muscle mass has a significant impact on the intensive animal production industries, where feed represents the major portion of production costs. Despite extensive breeding and selection efforts, there are still large differences in the growth performance of animals fed identical diets and reared under the same conditions. Variability in growth performance presents management difficulties and causes economic loss. An understanding of possible microbiota drivers of these differences has potentially important benefits for industry. In this study, differences in cecal and jejunal microbiota between broiler chickens with extreme feed conversion capabilities were analysed in order to identify candidate bacteria that may influence growth performance. The jejunal microbiota was largely dominated by lactobacilli (over 99% of jejunal sequences) and showed no difference between the birds with high and low feed conversion ratios. The cecal microbial community displayed higher diversity, and 24 unclassified bacterial species were found to be significantly (<0.05) differentially abundant between high and low performing birds. Such differentially abundant bacteria represent target populations that could potentially be modified with prebiotics and probiotics in order to improve animal growth performance.


16S rRNA gene Chicken Feed conversion ratio Gut Microbiota 



We would like to thank Anthony Keyburn and Mark Tizard for the comments on the manuscript. We would also like to thank Derek Schultz, Evelyn Daniels and Kylee Swanson for the assistance with animal experimentation. This research was conducted within the Australian Poultry Cooperative Research Center, established and supported under the Australian Government's Cooperative Research Centers Program. High-performance computing infrastructure and support was provided by the Queensland Facility for Advanced Bioinformatics (QFAB).

Supplementary material

253_2011_3847_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (525 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 524 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dragana Stanley
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Stuart E. Denman
    • 2
  • Robert J. Hughes
    • 3
    • 4
    • 6
  • Mark S. Geier
    • 3
    • 4
    • 6
  • Tamsyn M. Crowley
    • 1
    • 4
    • 5
  • Honglei Chen
    • 1
  • Volker R. Haring
    • 1
  • Robert J. Moore
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.CSIRO Livestock IndustriesAustralian Animal Health LaboratoriesGeelongAustralia
  2. 2.CSIRO Livestock IndustriesSt LuciaAustralia
  3. 3.South Australian Research and Development InstitutePig and Poultry Production InstituteRoseworthyAustralia
  4. 4.Australian Poultry Cooperative Research CentreUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  5. 5.Institute for Technology Research and InnovationDeakin UniversityGeelongAustralia
  6. 6.School of Animal and Veterinary SciencesThe University of AdelaideRoseworthyAustralia

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