Differential microbial communities of omnivorous and herbivorous cattle in Southern China.
In Hong Kong, cattle were traditionally raised by farmers as draft animals to plough rice fields. Due to urbanization in the 20th century, they were gradually abandoned and became wild cattle straying in suburban Hong Kong. Recently, these cattle were observed to have become omnivorous by eating leftover barbeque food waste in country parks. Microbiome analysis was performed on fecal samples of the omnivorous cattle using deep sequencing and the resulting microbiome was compared with that of traditional herbivorous cattle in Southern China. A more diverse gut microbiome was observed in the omnivorous cattle, suggesting that microbiota diversity increases as diet variation increases. At the genus level, the relative abundance of Anaeroplasma, Anaerovorax, Bacillus, Coprobacillus and Solibacillus significantly increased and those of Anaerofustis, Butyricimonas, Campylobacter, Coprococcus, Dehalobacterium, Phascolarctobacterium, rc4.4, RFN20, Succinivibrio and Turicibacter significantly decreased in the omnivorous group. The increase in microbial community levels of Bacillus and Anaerovorax likely attributes to the inclusion of meat in the diet; while the decrease in relative abundance of Coprococcus, Butyricimonas, Succinivibrio, Campylobacter and Phascolarctobacterium may reflect the reduction in grass intake. Furthermore, an increased consumption of resistant starch likely resulted in the increase in abundance of Anaeroplasma. In conclusion, a significant change in the gut microbial community was observed in the omnivorous cattle, suggesting that diet may be one of the factors that may signal an adaptation response by the cattle to maintain feed efficiency as a consequence of the change in environment.