Gut microbiota of wild bird species
The guts of vertebrate animals are unique environments and cultivate distinct microbial communities. Research has shown that host species from wild animals to humans rely on microbiomes for crucial components of their health and development. However, our understanding of wildlife microbiomes lags behind, especially in bird species. Therefore, my dissertation explores patterns of microbial diversity in wild bird species and investigates the factors that may explain these patterns, such as habitat, age, sex, social networks and co-diversification. I work with two systems. The first are New Caledonian crows, which are one of the few animal species to demonstrate tool manufacture and use in the wild. The second are Darwin’s finches in the Galapagos Archipelago, which offer a unique opportunity to compare the recent evolution of numerous bird species to changes in their microbiome. Together, these projects will help elucidate how microbial communities assemble in the wild and what potential they have to influence the evolution of the host species.
Cambridge, MA 02138