Gut microbiota may predict host divergence time during Glires evolution

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The gut microbial communities of animals play key roles in host evolution. However, the possible relationship between gut microbiota and host divergence time remains unknown. Here, we investigated the gut microbiota of eight Glires species (four lagomorph species and four rodent species) distributed throughout the Qinghai-Tibet plateau and Inner Mongolia grassland. Lagomorphs and rodents had distinct gut microbial compositions. Three out of four lagomorph species were dominated by Firmicutes, while rodents were dominated by Bacteroidetes in general. The alpha diversity values (Shannon diversity and evenness) exhibited significant differences between any two species within the lagomorphs, whereas there were no significant differences among rodents. The structure of the gut microbiota showed significant differences between lagomorphs and rodents. In addition, we calculated host phylogeny and divergence times, and used a phylogenetic approach to reconstruct how the animal gut microbiota has diverged from their ancestral species. Some core bacterial genera (e.g. Prevotella and Clostridium) shared by more than nine-tenths of all the Glires individuals associated with plant polysaccharide degradation showed marked changes within lagomorphs. Differences in Glires gut microbiota (based on weighted UniFrac and Bray-Curtis dissimilarity metrics) were positively correlated with host divergence time. Our results thus suggest the gut microbial composition is associated with host phylogeny, and further suggest that dissimilarity of animal gut microbiota may predict host divergence time.

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