Influence of Season and Diet on Fiber Digestion and Bacterial Community Structure in the Rumen of Muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus). Academic Article uri icon


  • We studied the relationship between fiber digestion and the composition of the bacterial community in the rumen of muskoxen at the start and the end of the annual window of plant growth from spring to fall. Eight ruminally cannulated castrated males were fed brome hay or triticale straw (69.6% vs. 84.6% neutral detergent fiber, respectively) that were similar in fiber content to the sedges consumed by wild muskoxen (64.5 to 71.7% neutral detergent fiber). Muskoxen digested fiber from both forages faster and to a greater extent when straw rather than hay was consumed. Fiber digestion was therefore inducible by diet 4 in each season. We used 16S rRNA sequences from ruminal contents to study how season and diet affected the bacterial community and how the latter related to fiber digestion. We found that Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes accounted for 90% of the sequences at the level of Phylum, which is typical for the mammal gut microbiome. Using partial least square regressions, it was found that between 48% and 72% of the variation in fiber digestion was associated with 3643 genera of bacteria. The main fibrolytic bacteria typical of domestic ruminants were generally not among the most important bacteria associated with fiber digestion in muskoxen. This reveals that muskoxen rely upon on a large suite of bacterial genera that are largely distinct from those used by other ruminants to digest the cell walls of plants that vary widely in both abundance and nutritional quality through the year.

published proceedings

  • Microorganisms

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Ungerfeld, E. M., Leigh, M. B., Forster, R. J., & Barboza, P. S.

citation count

  • 11

complete list of authors

  • Ungerfeld, Emilio M||Leigh, Mary Beth||Forster, Robert J||Barboza, Perry S

publication date

  • January 2018