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Cloacal Microbial Communities of Female Spotted Towhees Pipilo maculatus: Microgeographic Variation and Individual Sources of Variability
Journal of Avian Biology (2008)
  • Jennifer E. Klomp, Portland State University
  • Michael T. Murphy, Portland State University
  • Sarah Bartos Smith, Portland State University
  • Jenny E. McKay, Portland State University
  • Isabella Ferrera, Portland State University
  • Anna-Louise Reysenbach, Portland State University
We used Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) amplification of 16S rRNA genes and Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis (DGGE) to describe the microbial communities present in the cloacae of spotted towhees Pipilo maculatus. Our goals were to quantify bacterial diversity of breeding females, describe microgeographic variation of cloacal communities in a network of four urban parks in Portland, OR, and evaluate the degree to which microbial species richness varied with individual female characteristics (age, size, and condition). We detected 57 Operational Taxonomic Units (OTUs) in 46 towhees, but most OTUs showed a relatively low prevalence. Discriminant function analysis correctly classified 69.6% of towhees to their park of origin based on the presence or absence of five OTUs. Parks thus had unique “microbial signatures”. The presence or absence of specific OTUs was not associated with a female's age, but a general linear models analysis established that OTU richness was greatest among females with short tails, narrow bills, and with the exception of one individual, among relatively heavy birds. We speculate that the microgeographic differences in cloacal microbial community structure may exist due to differences in anthropogenic influences among parks. The explanations for the negative relationship between microbial richness and flight feather length, but positive relationship between microbial richness and body condition are unclear, but may reflect the different time frames over which feather growth and body mass are determined.
  • Bird populations--United States,
  • Avian biology,
  • Passerines
Publication Date
September, 2008
Publisher Statement
Copyright (2008) Wiley
Citation Information
Jennifer E. Klomp, Michael T. Murphy, Sarah Bartos Smith, Jenny E. McKay, et al.. "Cloacal Microbial Communities of Female Spotted Towhees Pipilo maculatus: Microgeographic Variation and Individual Sources of Variability" Journal of Avian Biology Vol. 39 Iss. 5 (2008)
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