, Volume 71, Issue 2, pp 155–164 | Cite as

Diversity and composition of cultivable gut bacteria in an endemic island bird and its mainland sister species

  • Elisa LobatoEmail author
  • Margarida Geraldes
  • Martim Melo
  • Claire Doutrelant
  • Rita Covas


The study of island biodiversity has inspired many advances in evolutionary biology. However, whether patterns of microorganism diversity are influenced by insularity is poorly understood. In particular, microorganisms that live in symbiotic association, such as the microbiota that inhabit the gastrointestinal tract of bigger animals, are subjected to demographic and coevolutionary processes that may add complexity to the common expectation of impoverished diversity on oceanic islands. Here, we explore this topic by studying the cultivable gut bacteria of two sister species of birds, from São Tomé island and nearby mainland Gabon, the endemic São Tomé thrush Turdus olivaceofuscus and the African thrush Turdus pelios. We found no differences in the diversity of cultivable gut bacteria between these thrushes, suggesting that, unlike what is commonly found for macrofauna, insularity might not represent a strong constraint for gut bacterial diversity. Although further research on complete gut bacterial communities and a broader range of species and areas is needed, our initial results suggest that the cultivable gut microbial community may bypass the diversity loss associated with island colonization. This could arise from intrinsic factors such as their large population sizes within hosts and low rates of extinction. Furthermore, as gut communities are composed mainly by mutualistic bacteria, diversifying selection (against an impoverished bacterial community), may counteract the diversity loss brought about by the stochastic and demographic effects of the founder process.


Insularity Bird gut microbiota Microorganism biodiversity Oceanic islands Microbial ecology 



This work was funded by FEDER funds through the Operational Programme for Competitiveness Factors - COMPETE and by National Funds through FCT—Foundation for Science and Technology (Portugal) from project with references FCOMP-01-0124-FEDER-028312 and PTDC/BIA-BIC/4556/2012. Field work in Gabon and São Tomé Island was funded by National Geographic Society ‘NGS/Waitt Grant W251-12’, British Ecological Society ‘Small Ecological Projects 369 / 4558’ and partly by Languedoc Roussillon French region (program chercheur(e) d’avenir 2011). R. Covas was funded by ‘Ciência 2008’ and IF fellowships (FCT, Portugal). E. Lobato and M. Melo were funded by FCT postdoctoral grants from Portugal with references SFRH/BPD/80214/2011 and SFRH/BPD/46407/2008, respectively. Research conducted in the scope of the LIA known as “Biodiversity and Evolution”. Permissions to work in the study area were given by local authorities in São Tomé and Gabon (CENAREST authorization N°AR0053 /12/ MENESTFPRSCJS/ CENAREST/ CG/ CST/ CSAR). We would like to thank the support of the Director and the guides at Lekedi Park, Marie Charpentier for her help in organizing the expedition to Gabon, and Alexandre Vaz for help in the field. In São Tomé we thank the Environmental affairs cabinet and the Department for Nature Conservation and the respective directors (Arlindo Carvalho and Victor Bonfim) for permission to conduct the work and logistical support. Guilhermino kindly assisted us with transport around the island. The Association Monte Pico, its president Luis Mário and members, Octávio Veiga and Yelli provided invaluable assistance in the field. We thank Adelaide Paixão, Maria José Mosqueiro, Cláudia Almendra, Filipa Matos and João Costa for their technical help with microbiological analyses. We thank several anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on previous versions of this manuscript. The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elisa Lobato
    • 1
    Email author
  • Margarida Geraldes
    • 2
  • Martim Melo
    • 1
    • 3
  • Claire Doutrelant
    • 4
  • Rita Covas
    • 1
    • 3
    • 5
  1. 1.CIBIO/InBio, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos GenéticosUniversidade do PortoVairãoPortugal
  2. 2.INIAV, Instituto Nacional de Investigação Agrária e VeterináriaVairãoPortugal
  3. 3.Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, DST-NRF Center of ExcellenceUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa
  4. 4.CEFE, Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive, CNRS UMR 5175Montpellier cedex 5France
  5. 5.Biology Department, Science FacultyUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal

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