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Comparative Analyses of the Gut Microbiome of Two Fox Species, the Red Fox (Vulpes Vulpes) and Corsac Fox (Vulpes Corsac), that Occupy Different Ecological Niches

Abstract

The gut microbiome is integral for the host’s living and environmental adaptation and crucially important for understanding host adaptive mechanisms. The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) dominates a wider ecological niche and more complicated habitat than that of the corsac fox (V. corsac). However, the adaptive mechanisms (in particular, the gut microbiome responsible for this kind of difference) are still unclear. Therefore, we investigated the gut microbiome of these two species in the Hulunbuir grassland, China, and evaluated their microbiome composition, function, and adaptive mechanisms. We profiled the gut microbiome and metabolism function of red and corsac foxes via 16S rRNA gene and metagenome sequencing. The foxes harbored species-specific microbiomes and functions that were related to ecological niche and habitat. The red fox had abundant Bacteroides, which leads to significant enrichment of metabolic pathways (K12373 and K21572) and enzymes related to chitin and carbohydrate degradation that may help the red fox adapt to a wider niche. The corsac fox harbored large proportions of Blautia, Terrisporobacter, and ATP-binding cassette (ABC) transporters (K01990, K02003, and K06147) that can help maintain corsac fox health, allowing it to live in harsh habitats. These results indicate that the gut microbiome of the red and corsac foxes may have different abilities which may provide these species with differing capabilities to adapt to different ecological niches and habitats, thus providing important microbiome data for understanding the mechanisms of host adaptation to different niches and habitats.

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Data Availability

1. The species identification data can be found in the Genbank of NCBI, accession numbers: CH1 (MT795165.1), CH2 (MT795166.1), CH3 (MT795167.1), CH4 (MT795168.1), CH5 (MT795169.1), CH7 (MT795170.1), CH8 (MT795171.1), CH9 (MT795172.1), CH11 (MT795173.1), CH13 (MT795174.1), SH14 (MT795175.1), SH15 (MT795178.1), SH16 (MT795176.1), SH17 (MT795177.1), and SH21 (MT795179.1).

2. The 16S rRNA gene sequencing data can be found in the NCBI Sequence Read Archive database (accession number PRJNA646772).

3. The metagenomics sequencing data can be found in the NCBI Sequence Read Archive database (accession number PRJNA646811).

Code Availability (Software Application or Custom Code)

Applicable.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the staff of the Management Station of the Inner Mongolia Hulun Lake National Nature Reserve for helping with fecal sample collection. We thank our mentors for their guidance in experiments and writing.

Funding

This work was supported by the Special Fund for Forest Scientific Research in the Public Welfare (201404420) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31872242, 32070405, 32001228, 32000291, 61902368).

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HhZ, XbW, and QgW conceived and designed the study. XbW, YqS, XyW, WlS, HxZ, and ScM performed the research. XbW, HsD, SyZ, and GlS analyzed the data. XbW prepared the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Honghai Zhang.

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Xibao Wang and Yongquan Shang shared first authorship

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Wang, X., Shang, Y., Wei, Q. et al. Comparative Analyses of the Gut Microbiome of Two Fox Species, the Red Fox (Vulpes Vulpes) and Corsac Fox (Vulpes Corsac), that Occupy Different Ecological Niches. Microb Ecol 83, 753–765 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00248-021-01806-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00248-021-01806-8

Keywords

  • Gut microbiome
  • Red fox (Vulpes vulpes)
  • Corsac fox (Vulpes corsac)
  • Ecological niche