Scientific Reports (Nov 2021)

Seasonal diets supersede host species in shaping the distal gut microbiota of Yaks and Tibetan sheep

  • Xiaojuan Wei,
  • Zhen Dong,
  • Fusheng Cheng,
  • Hongmei Shi,
  • Xuzheng Zhou,
  • Bing Li,
  • Ling Wang,
  • Weiwei Wang,
  • Jiyu Zhang

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 11, no. 1
pp. 1 – 11


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Abstract Yaks and Tibetan sheep are important and renowned livestock of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP). Both host genetics and environmental factors can shape the composition of gut microbiota, however, there is still no consensus on which is the more dominant factor. To investigate the influence of hosts and seasons on the gut microbiome diversity component, we collected fecal samples from yaks and Tibetan sheep across different seasons (summer and winter), during which they consumed different diets. Using 16S rRNA sequencing, principal component analysis (PCoA) data showed that PCo1 explained 57.4% of the observed variance (P = 0.001) and clearly divided winter samples from summer ones, while PCo2 explained 7.1% of observed variance (P = 0.001) and mainly highlighted differences in host species. Cluster analysis data revealed that the gut microbiota composition displayed a convergence caused by season and not by genetics. Further, we profiled the gut microbial community and found that the more dominant genera in yak and Tibetan sheep microbiota were influenced by seasonal diets factors rather than genetics. This study therefore indicated that seasonal diet can trump host genetics even at higher taxonomic levels, thus providing a cautionary note for the breeding and management of these two species.