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IMR Press / FBE / Volume 14 / Issue 3 / DOI: 10.31083/j.fbe1403022
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Open Access Original Research
Characterisation of the Faecal Microbiome of Foals from 0–5 Months of Age and Their Respective Mares across Five Geographic Locations
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1 School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science, The University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW 2050, Australia
2 Lacombe Research and Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Lacombe, AB 403, Canada
3 School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Queensland, Gatton, QLD 4343, Australia
*Correspondence: alex.chaves@sydney.edu.au (Alex V. Chaves)
Front. Biosci. (Elite Ed) 2022, 14(3), 22; https://doi.org/10.31083/j.fbe1403022
Submitted: 7 May 2022 | Revised: 20 May 2022 | Accepted: 23 May 2022 | Published: 18 August 2022
This is an open access article under the CC BY 4.0 license.
Abstract

Background: A foal undergoes considerable growth and development from birth to weaning, progressing from a milk-based diet to complete herbivory. The symbiotic relationships between bacteria, archaea and fungi substantiate this energy demand by colonising the hindgut and remaining flexible throughout the diet transitions. Methods: A total of 70 faecal samples were collected from 14 mares and their foals across five studs in NSW as they aged from 0 to 5 months old. DNA was extracted from faecal samples and underwent amplification and sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene V4 hypervariable region of archaea and bacteria, and the fungal internal transcribed spacer-1 (ITS1) region. The fungal and bacterial community structure was assessed using Bray-Curtis dissimilarities, and the effect of age at sampling and location was determined using PERMANOVA. Results: Age at sampling had a substantial effect on the foal’s archaeal and bacterial faecal microbiota (PERMANOVA: R${}^{2}$ = 0.16; p $<$ 0.01), while the effect of geographical location was smaller but still significant (PERMANOVA: R${}^{2}$ = 0.07; p $<$ 0.01). The overall abundance, diversity and richness of bacterial and archaeal populations increased (p $<$ 0.01) as foals aged, most noticeably rising between foals 1 to 2 and 2 to 3 months of age. The 15 most relatively abundant fungal species were all environmental saprophytes, most strongly affected by geographical location (p $<$ 0.01) rather than age at sampling. There was an effect of location on Preussia Africana (p = 0.02) and a location $\times$ age interaction for fungal species Preussia persica (p $<$ 0.01), Acremonium furcatum (p = 0.04), and Podospora pseudocomata (p = 0.01). There was no effect of age, location, or location $\times$ age interaction on the relative abundance of the remaining fungal species. Conclusions: The faecal microbiome appeared to stabilise for most bacterial and archaeal genera by 2 to 3 months of age, resembling an adult mare. Bacterial genera isolated from faecal samples belonged mainly to the Firmicutes phylum. Age at sampling more strongly affected the archaeal and bacterial faecal microbiota than the effect of the geographical location where the horse was sampled. The lack of effect of location on microbe populations suggests that although environmental factors may influence population structure, there are distinct differences at each stage of foal maturation.

Keywords
16S rRNA gene sequencing
fungal ITS sequences
equine
microbiome
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