Microbial Ecology

, Volume 74, Issue 1, pp 250–258 | Cite as

Patterns in Gut Microbiota Similarity Associated with Degree of Sociality among Sex Classes of a Neotropical Primate

  • Katherine R. AmatoEmail author
  • Sarie Van Belle
  • Anthony Di Fiore
  • Alejandro Estrada
  • Rebecca Stumpf
  • Bryan White
  • Karen E. Nelson
  • Rob Knight
  • Steven R. Leigh
Host Microbe Interactions


Studies of human and domestic animal models indicate that related individuals and those that spend the most time in physical contact typically have more similar gut microbial communities. However, few studies have examined these factors in wild mammals where complex social dynamics and a variety of interacting environmental factors may impact the patterns observed in controlled systems. Here, we explore the effect of host kinship and time spent in social contact on the gut microbiota of wild, black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra). Our results indicate that closely related individuals had less similar gut microbial communities than non-related individuals. However, the effect was small. In contrast, as previously reported in baboons and chimpanzees, individuals that spent more time in contact (0 m) and close proximity (0–1 m) had more similar gut microbial communities. This pattern was driven by adult female-adult female dyads, which generally spend more time in social contact than adult male-adult male dyads or adult male-adult female dyads. Relative abundances of individual microbial genera such as Bacteroides, Clostridium, and Streptococcus were also more similar in individuals that spent more time in contact or close proximity. Overall, our data suggest that even in arboreal primates that live in small social groups and spend a relatively low proportion of their time in physical contact, social interactions are associated with variation in gut microbiota composition. Additionally, these results demonstrate that within a given host species, subgroups of individuals may interact with the gut microbiota differently.


Gut microbiota Alouatta Kinship Social contact 



This work was supported by National Geographic/Waitt Foundation (grant number W139-10 to KRA); the National Science Foundation (Graduate Research Fellowship to KRA, grant number 0935347 to SRL, RMS, BAW, KEN); the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation; the Earth Microbiome Project; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Dissertation Travel Grant to KRA); and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (postdoctoral fellowship to SVB). The authors want to thank the numerous research assistants who provided support in the field and Simone Loss, Greg Humphrey, Grant Gogul, and James Gaffney for help with laboratory work and logistics. Thanks are also due to CONANP, SEMARNAT, and SAGARPA in Mexico, and the CDC in the USA. for permits and logistic support.

Data Accessibility

Raw sequence data can be obtained from EBI (ERP020586).

Supplementary material

248_2017_938_MOESM1_ESM.doc (38 kb)
Table S1 (DOC 37 kb)
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Table S2 (DOC 35 kb)
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Table S3 (DOC 75 kb)
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Table S4 (XLSX 228 kb)
248_2017_938_MOESM5_ESM.doc (119 kb)
Table S5 (DOC 119 kb)
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Table S6 (DOC 34 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine R. Amato
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sarie Van Belle
    • 2
  • Anthony Di Fiore
    • 2
  • Alejandro Estrada
    • 3
  • Rebecca Stumpf
    • 4
    • 5
  • Bryan White
    • 5
    • 6
  • Karen E. Nelson
    • 7
  • Rob Knight
    • 8
  • Steven R. Leigh
    • 9
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of TexasAustinUSA
  3. 3.Instituto de BiologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexico CityMexico
  4. 4.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA
  5. 5.Institute for Genomic BiologyUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA
  6. 6.Department of Animal SciencesUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA
  7. 7.J. Craig Venter InstituteRockvilleUSA
  8. 8.School of MedicineUniversity of CaliforniaSan DiegoUSA
  9. 9.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA

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