Free PMC article
Black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) are keystone species within their grassland ecosystems; their population stability affects a multitude of other species. The goals of this study were to explore, describe and compare the bacterial communities in caecal and hard faecal samples from free-ranging black-tailed prairie dogs (n = 36) from KS, USA, using high-throughput sequencing of the V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene and to compare sex and geographic locations. A total of 22 paired faecal and caecal samples were collected post-mortem from free-ranging black-tailed prairie dogs from 5 different geographical locations. The results revealed that the microbiota of both faecal and caecal samples were dominated by the phylum Firmicutes (genera belonging to the Clostridiales order). There was significantly greater richness in faecal compared with caecal samples. There were significant differences between the 5 different geographic regions (P < 0.001), specifically in the relative abundances of genera. There were differences in rare members of the microbiome between faecal samples from male and female prairie dogs but with no significant impact on overall community structure. This study provides novel data and expands our knowledge about the gastrointestinal microbiome composition of free-ranging black-tailed prairie dogs, which has potential to inform conservation efforts and improve their captive management.