Falcon gut microbiota is shaped by diet and enriched in Salmonella

Anique R. Ahmad, Samuel Ridgeway, Ahmed A. Shibl, Youssef Idaghdour, Aashish R. Jha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The gut microbiome is increasingly being appreciated as a master regulator of animal health. However, avian gut microbiome studies commonly focus on birds of economic importance and the gut microbiomes of raptors remain underexplored. Here we examine the gut microbiota of 29 captive falcons-raptors of historic importance-in the context of avian evolution by sequencing the V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene. Our results reveal that evolutionary histories and diet are significantly associated with avian gut microbiota in general, whereas diet plays a major role in shaping the falcon gut microbiota. Multiple analyses revealed that gut microbial diversity, composition, and relative abundance of key diet-discriminating bacterial genera in the falcon gut closely resemble those of carnivorous raptors rather than those of their closest phylogenetic relatives. Furthermore, the falcon microbiota is dominated by Firmicutes and contains Salmonella at appreciable levels. Salmonella presence was associated with altered functional capacity of the falcon gut microbiota as its abundance is associated with depletion of multiple predicted metabolic pathways involved in protein mass buildup, muscle maintenance, and enrichment of antimicrobial compound degradation, thus increasing the pathogenic potential of the falcon gut. Our results point to the necessity of screening for Salmonella and other human pathogens in captive birds to safeguard both the health of falcons and individuals who come in contact with these birds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0293895
JournalPloS one
Issue number1 January
StatePublished - Jan 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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