A Comparative Study on the Faecal Bacterial Community and Potential Zoonotic Bacteria of Muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) in Northeast Greenland, Northwest Greenland and Norway

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Muskoxen ( Ovibos moschatus) are ruminants adapted to a high-fibre diet. There is increasing interest in the role that gut microbes play in the digestion and utilization of these specialized diets but only limited data available on the gut microbiome of high-Arctic animals. In this study, we metabarcoded the 16S rRNA region of faecal samples from muskoxen of Northeast Greenland, Northwest Greenland and Norway, and quantified the effects of physiological and temporal factors on bacterial composition. We found significant effects of body mass, year of sampling and location on the gut bacterial communities of North East Greenland muskoxen. These effects were however dwarfed by the effects of location, emphasizing the importance of the local ecology on the gut bacterial community. Habitat alterations and rising temperatures may therefore have a considerable impact on muskoxen health and reproductive success. Moreover, muskoxen are hunted and consumed in Greenland, Canada and Alaska; therefore, this study also screened for potential zoonoses of food safety interest. A total of 13 potentially zoonotic genera were identified, including the genera Erysipelothrix and Yersinia implicated in recent mass die-offs of the muskoxen themselves.

Original languageEnglish
Article number76
Issue number3
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Research areas

  • 16S rRNA, Arctic, Ovibos moschatus, faecal bacterial community, metabarcoding, muskoxen, zoonoses

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