Gut Mycobiota of Giant Panda
The giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, is an endangered animal species that completely depends on bamboo for nutrition yet has evolved from ancestors with a carnivorous digestive system. Previous studies showed that the composition of the intestinal microbiome of giant panda resembles that of other carnivores, but the structure and function of the fungi inhabiting the panda gut remains undiscovered. To characterize the intestinal mycobiota of the captive giant pandas, 454 pyrosequencing technology was applied to the internal transcribed spacer of the rRNA gene of aerobic and anaerobic fungi of fecal samples collected from zoos located at Beijing and Chengdu, China. The fungal communities of bamboo tissues used to feed pandas at the Beijing Zoo were also characterized. A total of 201,631 ITS sequences of aerobic fungi and 21,379 ITS1 sequences of anaerobic fungi (Neocallimastigales) were clustered into 880 and 38 operational taxonomic units (OTUs), respectively. The aerobic fungal communities consisted of plant endophytes (e.g. Arthrinium), plant pathogens (e.g. Fusarium, Acremonium), and yeast/yeast-like fungi (e.g. Candida, Trichosporon). The observed richness of the panda intestinal mycobiota from Beijing was significantly higher than that from Sichuan. Bamboo endophytes were a major contributor to panda gut mycobiota with 87% of the OTUs from bamboo tissues recovered from fecal samples from Beijing. Amongst the anaerobic OTUs, the most dominant OTU was found in the majority of fecal samples and appears to belong to a previously undescribed lineage within the zoosporic phylum Neocallimastigomycota. Additional investigation needs to be done to characterize the functionality of the mycobiota, especially to confirm the potential mutualistic roles of anaerobic fungi in cellulose digestion processes, a necessity for panda to survive only on bamboo.
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