Animals are reliant on their gut microbiota (collectively called the microbiome) for health and well-being. Although this has been appreciated for decades, the extent and complexity of host gut-microbiome interactions has been brought into much sharper focus recently by culture-independent molecular techniques. These techniques include 16S rRNA gene amplicon community profiling, metagenomics and metatranscriptomics (bulk sequencing of all the DNA or RNA in a sample) and provide direct access to the majority of gut microorganisms which cannot be readily cultivated. Culture-independent methods have been applied extensively to the gut microbiomes of mammals (in particular humans and mice), birds, fish, reptiles and insects. However, surprisingly little culture- independent work has been done with iconic Australian fauna, including marsupials of the order Diprotodontia (having two lower incisors). Members of this marsupial order, which include kangaroos, wallabies, possums, wombats and koalas among many others, are particularly interesting in terms of their gut microbiota, as several species can digest eucalyptus leaves which are nutrient poor, high in lignified fibre, and enriched in natural toxins.
Our aims in this project are to:
1. Survey diprotodont marsupial faecal microbiomes
2. Recover genomes of microbial populations correlated with a toxic diet