Assessing the Influence of Environmental Sources on the Gut Mycobiome of Tibetan Macaques

Binghua Sun, Yingna Xia, Samuel Davison, Andres Gomez, Paul A. Garber, Katherine R. Amato, Xiaojuan Xu, Dong Po Xia, Xi Wang, Jin Hua Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The distribution and availability of microbes in the environment has an important effect on the composition of the gut microbiome of wild vertebrates. However, our current knowledge of gut-environmental interactions is based principally on data from the host bacterial microbiome, rather than on links that establish how and where hosts acquire their gut mycobiome. This complex interaction needs to be clarified. Here, we explored the relationship between the gut fungal communities of Tibetan macaques (Macaca thibetana) and the presence of environmental (plant and soil) fungi at two study sites using the fungal internal transcribed spacer (ITS) and next generation sequencing. Our findings demonstrate that the gut, plant and soil fungal communities in their natural habitat were distinct. We found that at both study sites, the core abundant taxa and ASVs (Amplicon Sequence Variants) of Tibetan macaques’ gut mycobiome were present in environmental samples (plant, soil or both). However, the majority of these fungi were characterized by a relatively low abundance in the environment. This pattern implies that the ecology of the gut may select for diverse but rare environmental fungi. Moreover, our data indicates that the gut mycobiome of Tibetan macaques was more similar to the mycobiome of their plant diet than that present in the soil. For example, we found three abundant ASVs (Didymella rosea, Cercospora, and Cladosporium) that were present in the gut and on plants, but not in the soil. Our results highlight a relationship between the gut mycobiome of wild primates and environmental fungi, with plants diets possibly contributing more to seeding the macaque’s gut mycobiome than soil fungi.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number730477
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
StatePublished - Aug 4 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Jie Xie, Sheng-Fei Xie, and You-Guo Wang from Huang-shan National Nature Reserve for providing support for this study. We give special thanks to Hai-Bin Cheng and his family for their outstanding logistical support during our study. We thank Wenbo Li for his help in the classification and identification of plants. PG wishes to thank Chrissie McKenney, Sara Garber, and Jenni Garber for their support during the writing of this manuscript. We are also very grateful to the editors and reviewers of Frontiers in Microbiology for their valuable comments. Funding. This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant nos. 31870371 and 31971404) and the Scientific Research Foundation for Advanced Talents of Hefei Normal University (grant no. 2020rcjj51).

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Sun, Xia, Davison, Gomez, Garber, Amato, Xu, Xia, Wang and Li.


  • environmental fungi
  • gut mycobiome
  • plant
  • soil
  • Tibetan macaque

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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