Down to the guts of climate change

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Science  09 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6342, pp. 1041-1042
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6342.1041-c

High temperatures decrease gut microbiota, and subsequent survival, in common lizards.


Mass extinction may be reaching parts that we do not normally consider. Like most living organisms, lizards are dependent on a variety of cohabiting microorganisms for optimum health. Bestion et al. looked at the cloacal microbiota of Zootoca vivipara lizards living in semi-natural enclosures under various temperature regimes. Life at warmer temperatures affected the lizards' most diverse gut bacterial phyla, which declined by over 30%. In particular, the relative abundances of Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes dropped, and those of Proteobacteria increased, at 3°C above present conditions. Species richness positively correlated with lizard survival the following year. What mediates the changes in bacterial diversity is not understood, but climate may be acting via food supplies, host behavior, or body condition. The data also revealed gender differences in functional features of the resulting microbiota.

Nat. Ecol. Evol. 10.1038/s41559-017-016 (2017).

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