The faecal metabolome of black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) varies in response to seasonal dietary changes

Elizabeth K. Mallott, Lotte H. Skovmand, Paul A. Garber, Katherine R. Amato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Mammals rely on the metabolic functions of their gut microbiota to meet their energetic needs and digest potentially toxic components in their diet. The gut microbiome plastically responds to shifts in host diet and may buffer variation in energy and nutrient availability. However, it is unclear how seasonal differences in the gut microbiome influence microbial metabolism and nutrients available to hosts. In this study, we examine seasonal variation in the gut metabolome of black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) to determine whether those variations are associated with differences in gut microbiome composition and nutrient intake, and if plasticity in the gut microbiome buffers shortfalls in energy or nutrient intake. We integrated data on the metabolome of 81 faecal samples from 16 individuals collected across three distinct seasons with gut microbiome, nutrient intake and plant metabolite consumption data from the same period. Faecal metabolite profiles differed significantly between seasons and were strongly associated with changes in plant metabolite consumption. However, microbial community composition and faecal metabolite composition were not strongly associated. Additionally, the connectivity and stability of faecal metabolome networks varied seasonally, with network connectivity being highest during the dry, fruit-dominated season when black howler monkey diets were calorically and nutritionally constrained. Network stability was highest during the dry, leaf-dominated season when most nutrients were being consumed at intermediate rates. Our results suggest that the gut microbiome buffers seasonal variation in dietary intake, and that the buffering effect is most limited when host diet becomes calorically or nutritionally restricted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4146-4161
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • black howler monkey
  • diet–microbiome interactions
  • faecal metabolites
  • plant metabolites


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