Structure of Chimpanzee Gut Microbiomes across Tropical Africa



Bueno de Mesquita CP, Nichols LM, Gebert MJ, Vanderburgh C, Bocksberger G, Lester JD, Kalan AK, Dieguez P, McCarthy MS, Agbor A, Álvarez Varona P, Ayimisin AE, Bessone M, Chancellor R & Jeffery KJ (2021) Structure of Chimpanzee Gut Microbiomes across Tropical Africa. mSystems, 6 (3), Art. No.: e01269-20.

Understanding variation in host-associated microbial communities is important given the relevance of microbiomes to host physiology and health. Using 560 fecal samples collected from wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) across their range, we assessed how geography, genetics, climate, vegetation, and diet relate to gut microbial community structure (prokaryotes, eukaryotic parasites) at multiple spatial scales. We observed a high degree of regional specificity in the microbiome composition, which was associated with host genetics, available plant foods, and potentially with cultural differences in tool use, which affect diet. Genetic differences drove community composition at large scales, while vegetation and potentially tool use drove within-region differences, likely due to their influence on diet. Unlike industrialized human populations in the United States, where regional differences in the gut microbiome are undetectable, chimpanzee gut microbiomes are far more variable across space, suggesting that technological developments have decoupled humans from their local environments, obscuring regional differences that could have been important during human evolution.

prokaryotes; parasites; diet; tools; host genetics; climate

Additional co-authors: Heather Cohen, Charlotte Coupland, Tobias Deschner, Villard Ebot Egbe, Annemarie Goedmakers, Anne-Céline Granjon, Cyril C. Grueter, Josephine Head, R. Adriana Hernandez-Aguilar, Sorrel Jones, Parag Kadam, Michael Kaiser, Juan Lapuente, Bradley Larson, Sergio Marrocoli, David Morgan, Badru Mugerwa, Felix Mulindahabi, Emily Neil, Protais Niyigaba, Liliana Pacheco, Alex K. Piel, Martha M. Robbins, Aaron Rundus, Crickette M. Sanz, Lilah Sciaky, Douglas Sheil, Volker Sommer, Fiona A. Stewart, Els Ton, Joost van Schijndel, Virginie Vergnes, Erin G. Wessling, Roman M. Wittig, Yisa Ginath Yuh, Kyle Yurkiw, Klaus Zuberbühler, Jan F. Gogarten, Anna Heintz-Buschart, Alexandra N. Muellner-Riehl, Christophe Boesch, Hjalmar S. Kühl, Noah Fierer, Mimi Arandjelovic, Robert R. Dunn

mSystems: Volume 6, Issue 3

FundersDeutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Max Planck Society, Max Planck Society Innovation Fund and Heinz L. Krekeler Foundation
Publication date30/06/2021
Publication date online22/06/2021
Date accepted by journal12/05/2021
PublisherAmerican Society for Microbiology

People (1)


Ms Kathryn Jeffery

Ms Kathryn Jeffery

Research Fellow, Biological and Environmental Sciences