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Methanogens that populate the gastrointestinal tract of livestock ruminants contribute significantly to methane emissions from the agriculture industry. There is a great need to analyze archaeal microbiomes from a broad range of host species in order to establish causal relationships between the structure of methanogen communities and their potential for methane emission. In this report, we present an investigation of methanogenic archaeal populations in the foregut of alpacas.
We constructed individual 16S rRNA gene clone libraries from five sampled animals and recovered a total of 947 sequences which were assigned to 51 species-level OTUs. Individuals were found to each have between 21 and 27 OTUs, of which two to six OTUs were unique. As reported in other host species, Methanobrevibacter was the dominant genus in the alpaca, representing 88.3% of clones. However, the alpaca archaeal microbiome was different from other reported host species, as clones showing species-level identity to Methanobrevibacter millerae were the most abundant.
From our analysis, we propose a model to describe the population structure of Methanobrevibacter-related methanogens in the alpaca and in previously reported host species, which may contribute in unraveling the complexity of symbiotic archaeal communities in herbivores.