P1.221 Wednesday, Jan. 4 Post-weaning dynamics of the fecal microbial communities of arctic ground squirrels QUINLAN, B.A.*; STEVENSON, T.J.; BUCK, C.L.; DUDDLESTON, K.N.; Univ. of Alaska Anchorage; Univ. of Alaska Anchorage; Univ. of Alaska Anchorage; Univ. of Alaska Anchorage firstname.lastname@example.org
Mammals participate in a mutualistic relationship with their gut microflora characterized by complex reciprocal interactions that influence both host physiology and microbial community dynamics. There is evidence that the gut microflora plays an important role in host fat deposition. The arctic ground squirrel (Urocitellus parryii) is a hibernator that rapidly gains considerable fat in preparation for hibernation. It is likely they host a gut microflora efficient in energy extraction that contributes to pre-hibernation fattening. To date, no studies have examined the gut microflora of arctic ground squirrels. Our objective was to assess changes in diversity of the gut microbiota of juvenile squirrels across their first active season with particular attention paid to the rapid fattening phase. Fecal samples were collected bi-weekly from captive-born squirrels from weaning until hibernation. Microbial diversity was determined using T-RFLP analysis of bacterial 16S rDNA. Differences in microbial communities were determined using Additive Main Effects and Multiplicative Interaction (AMMI) and Interactions Principal Component Analysis (IPCA) using T-REX software. Clone libraries were constructed from fecal samples collected at 0, 4, and 8-weeks post weaning in order to phylogenetically characterize microbial communities. The gut microbial community was comprised primarily of members of the phyla Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes. T-RF richness, a measure of total diversity, declined from week 4 (125.22) to week 10 (60.56). T-RF patterns varied with time and among animals, and variation among animals decreased over time. Combined, these data show that the gut microbiota shifted as the squirrels developed and prepared for hibernation.