Assessment of the diversity of bacteria and methanogenic Archaea in Zebra faeces.
The need to develop a renewable, environmentally friendly source of energy has become a primary focus in modern science, with bio gas showing considerable potential. Interest in the methanogenic Archaea has therefore grown in recent years and extensive studies have been carried out to investigate the population diversity in various habitats. Presently, there are only a few studies that have evaluated the microbial communities inhabiting the gastrointestinal tract of wildlife native to southern Africa. This study aimed to investigate the microbial diversity, in particular the bacterial and methanogen communities involved in fermentative digestion in the gastrointestinal tract of zebra. Assessment of the microbial diversity in zebra faeces included both culture-based techniques and nucleic acid targeting analysis via 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Quantitative analysis using selected solid media revealed high counts for aerobic and anaerobic Bacteria (7.51x108 and 2.45x109/gram of faecal sample respectively). The majority of aerobic colonies that were detected exhibited Bacillus-like morphology. Nucleic acid based analysis of the diversity of both Bacteria and methanogenic Archaea in zebra faecal material was performed. Both manual and kit based extractions were used for DNA isolation in order to compare the efficiency of the two methods. Results show that a vigorous mechanical treatment was best for the release of DNA from the faecal matter. Amplification of target gene regions was carried out using established primer pairs (ARCH69F/ARCH915R and EUB338F/EUB907R) for methanogen and bacterial DNA respectively. Amplified 16S rRNA gene regions were cloned into a high copy number vector and random clones were selected for evaluation. Clones containing the target gene were further analysed by ARDRA and were assigned to a specific phylotype. Two bacterial (105 clones in total) and three methanogen (178 clones in total) clone libraries were constructed, of which 24 phylotypes were established for Bacteria and 25 for methanogenic Archaea. A representative of each phylotype was analysed by sequencing and further phylogenetic analysis was conducted. Six bacterial phylotypes, which represented 56% of all bacterial clones, exhibited 99% sequence similarity to Bacillus species. Six methanogen phylotypes, which exhibited 99% sequence similarity to the hydrogenotrophic species Methanobrevibacter gottschalkii strain PG, were established to be predominant in zebra faeces. These phylotypes represented 71% of all archaeal clones selected for analysis in this study.