Patterns of the fecal microbiota in the Juan Fernández fur seal (Arctocephalus philippii)

Constanza Toro-Valdivieso, Frederick Toro, Samuel Stubbs, Eduardo Castro-Nallar, Barbara Blacklaws

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As apex predators, pinnipeds are considered to be useful bioindicators of marine and coastal environments. Endemic to a small archipelago in the South Pacific, the Juan Fernandez fur seal (JFFS) is one of the less-studied members of the pinniped family Otariidae. This study aimed to characterize the fecal microbiome of the JFFS for the first time, to establish a baseline for future studies of host–microbial–environment interactions and monitoring programs. During two consecutive reproductive seasons, 57 fecal samples were collected from seven different JFFS colonies within the Juan Fernandez Archipelago, Chile. Bacterial composition and abundance were characterized by sequencing the V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene. The overall microbiome composition was dominated by five phyla: Firmicutes (40% ±24), Fusobacteria (30% ±17), Bacteroidetes (22% ±10), Proteobacteria (6% ±4), and Actinobacteria (2% ±3). Alpha diversity was higher in Tierras Blancas. However, location was not found to be a dominant driver of microbial composition. Interestingly, the strongest signal in the data was a negative association between the genera Peptoclostridium and Fusobacterium, which explained 29.7% of the total microbial composition variability between samples. The genus Peptoclostridium has not been reported in other pinniped studies, and its role here is unclear, with interpretation challenging due to a lack of information regarding microbiome functionality in marine mammals. As a first insight into the JFFS fecal microbiome, these results contribute towards our understanding of the natural microbial diversity and composition in free-ranging pinnipeds.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1215
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • Arctophoca philippii
  • marine mammals
  • microbiome
  • pinnipeds
  • scatology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology


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