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The Saiga are migratory antelopes inhabiting the grasslands of Eurasia. Over the last century, Saiga have been pushed to the brink of extinction by mass mortality events and intense poaching. Yet, despite the high profile of the Saiga as an animal of conservation concern, little is known of its biology. In particular, the gut microbiota of Saiga has not been studied, despite its potential importance in health. Here, we characterise the gut microbiota of Saiga from two geographically distinct populations in Kazakhstan and compare it with that of other antelope species. We identified a consistent gut microbial diversity and composition among individuals and across two Saiga populations during a year without die-offs, with over 85% of bacterial genera being common to both populations despite vast geographic separation. We further show that the Saiga gut microbiota resembled that of five other antelopes. The putative causative agent of Saiga mass die-offs, Pasteurella multocida, was not detected in the Saiga microbiota. Our findings provide the first description of the Saiga gut microbiota, generating a baseline for future work investigating the microbiota's role in health and mass die-offs, and supporting the conservation of this critically endangered species.

Original publication




Journal article


Sci Rep

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Humans, Animals, Antelopes, Gastrointestinal Microbiome, Kazakhstan, Pasteurella multocida, Microbiota