Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Articles

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PeerJ – the Journal of Life & Environmental Sciences



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Microbiome, Aging, Bats, Myotis myotis, Metabolism, Proteobacteria, Comparative Biology


A changing microbiome has been linked to biological aging in mice and humans, suggesting a possible role of gut flora in pathogenic aging phenotypes. Many bat species have exceptional longevity given their body size and some can live up to ten times longer than expected with little signs of aging. This study explores the anal microbiome of the exceptionally long-lived Myotis myotis bat, investigating bacterial composition in both adult and juvenile bats to determine if the microbiome changes with age in a wild, long-lived non-model organism, using non-lethal sampling. The anal microbiome was sequenced using metabarcoding in more than 50 individuals, finding no significant difference between the composition of juvenile and adult bats, suggesting that age-related microbial shifts previously observed in other mammals may not be present in Myotis myotis. Functional gene categories, inferred from metabarcoding data, expressed in the M. myotis microbiome were categorized identifying pathways involved in metabolism, DNA repair and oxidative phosphorylation. We highlight an abundance of ‘Proteobacteria’ relative to other mammals, with similar patterns compared to other bat microbiomes. Our results suggest that M. myotis may have a relatively stable, unchanging microbiome playing a role in their extended ‘health spans’ with the advancement of age, and suggest a potential link between microbiome and sustained, powered flight.





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The authors declare there are no competing interests. John Leech is also a research scientist at the Teagasc Food Research Centre, Fermoy, Cork, Ireland.

All captures and sample collections were carried out in accordance with the ethical guidelines and permits delivered in ‘Arrêté’ by the Préfet du Morbihan, Bretagne awarded to Eric Petit, Frédéric Touzalin and Sébastien Puechmaille for the time period 15 June-15 September 2013–2017. Full ethics approval and permission (AREC-13-38-Teeling) for capture and field sampling was also awarded by the University College Dublin, ethics committee to Emma Teeling. Access to all field sites was granted by local authorities in collaboration with Bretagne Vivante. Shipment of samples to NSU was permitted via US Public Health Service permit # 2014-07-015 issued by the Center for Disease Control to Jose Lopez.

This study was funded by a European Research Council Research Grant ERC-2012-StG311000 and a UCD Seed funding grant awarded to Emma C. Teeling, and was supported by the Contrat Nature ‘Etude de la dynamique des populations de grand murin (Myotis myotis) en Bretagne et Pays de Loire’ awarded to Bretagne Vivante. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

We thank Nicole Foley, David Jebb, Serena Dool, Eric Petit, Frédéric Touzalin, Olivier Farcy and Arnaud Le Houédec, and the numerous volunteers and students from BV and University College Dublin for their extensive help in the field, sample collection and the owners/local authorities for allowing access to the sites. We thank Renee Potens, Nidhi Vijayan and Jorie Skutas at NSU for assistance with molecular sample processing and Cole Easson for his help with read processing.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Peer Reviewed