The fecal bacterial microbiome of the Kuhl’s pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus kuhlii) reflects landscape anthropogenic pressure

Lourdes Lobato-Bailón*, Manuel García-Ulloa, Andrés Santos, David Guixé, Jordi Camprodon, Xavier Florensa-Rius, Raúl Molleda, Robert Manzano, Maria P. Ribas, Johan Espunyes, Andrea Dias-Alves, Ignasi Marco, Lourdes Migura-Garcia, Jaime Martínez-Urtaza, Oscar Cabezón

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Anthropogenic disturbance has the potential to negatively affect wildlife health by altering food availability and diet composition, increasing the exposure to agrochemicals, and intensifying the contact with humans, domestic animals, and their pathogens. However, the impact of these factors on the fecal microbiome composition of wildlife hosts and its link to host health modulation remains barely explored. Here we investigated the composition of the fecal bacterial microbiome of the insectivorous bat Kuhl’s pipistrelle (Pipistrellus kuhlii) dwelling in four environmental contexts with different levels of anthropogenic pressure. We analyzed their microbiome composition, structure and diversity through full-length 16S rRNA metabarcoding using the nanopore long-read sequencer MinION™. We hypothesized that the bacterial community structure of fecal samples would vary across the different scenarios, showing a decreased diversity and richness in samples from disturbed ecosystems. Results: The fecal microbiomes of 31 bats from 4 scenarios were sequenced. A total of 4,829,302 reads were obtained with a taxonomic assignment percentage of 99.9% at genus level. Most abundant genera across all scenarios were Enterococcus, Escherichia/Shigella, Bacillus and Enterobacter. Alpha diversity varied significantly between the four scenarios (p < 0.05), showing the lowest Shannon index in bats from urban and intensive agriculture landscapes, while the highest alpha diversity value was found in near pristine landscapes. Beta diversity obtained by Bray–Curtis distance showed weak statistical differentiation of bacterial taxonomic profiles among scenarios. Furthermore, core community analysis showed that 1,293 genera were shared among localities. Differential abundance analyses showed that the highest differentially abundant taxa were found in near pristine landscapes, with the exception of the family Alcaligenaceae, which was also overrepresented in urban and intensive agriculture landscapes. Conclusions: This study suggests that near pristine and undisturbed landscapes could promote a more resilient gut microbiome in wild populations of P. kuhlii. These results highlight the potential of the fecal microbiome as a non-invasive bioindicator to assess insectivorous bats’ health and as a key element of landscape conservation strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7
Pages (from-to)7
JournalAnimal Microbiome
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Feb 2023


  • 16S rRNA
  • Anthropogenic disturbance
  • Chiroptera
  • Conservation
  • Health indicator
  • MinION
  • Nanopore sequencing
  • Wildlife


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