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Diurnal oscillations in gut bacterial load and composition eclipse seasonal and lifetime dynamics in wild meerkats.

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Circadian rhythms in gut microbiota composition are crucial for metabolic function, yet the extent to which they govern microbial dynamics compared to seasonal and lifetime processes remains unknown. Here, we investigate gut bacterial dynamics in wild meerkats (Suricata suricatta) over a 20-year period to compare diurnal, seasonal, and lifetime processes in concert, applying ratios of absolute abundance. We found that diurnal oscillations in bacterial load and composition eclipsed seasonal and lifetime dynamics. Diurnal oscillations were characterised by a peak in Clostridium abundance at dawn, were associated with temperature-constrained foraging schedules, and did not decay with age. Some genera exhibited seasonal fluctuations, whilst others developed with age, although we found little support for microbial senescence in very old meerkats. Strong microbial circadian rhythms in this species may reflect the extreme daily temperature fluctuations typical of arid-zone climates. Our findings demonstrate that accounting for circadian rhythms is essential for future gut microbiome research.



Animals, Bacteria, Bacterial Load, Biodiversity, Circadian Rhythm, Clostridium, Computational Biology, DNA, Bacterial, Ecology, Gastrointestinal Microbiome, Humans, Pilot Projects, RNA, Ribosomal, 16S, Seasons

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Nat Commun

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
European Research Council (294494)
European Research Council (742808)