Differences in cecal microbiome of selected high and low feather-pecking laying hens

Birkl, P; Bharwani, A; Kjaer, Joergen GND; Kunze, W; McBride, P; Forsythe, P; Harlander-Matauschek, A

In mammals, it has become increasingly clear that the gut microbiota influences not only gastrointestinal physiology but also modulates behavior. In domestic birds, ceca have the greatest gastrointestinal microbial population. Feather-pecking (FP) behavior in laying hens is one of the most important unsolved behavioral issues in modern agriculture. The aim of the present study was to assess the cecal microbial community of divergently selected high (HFP; n = 20) and low (LFP; n = 20) feather-pecking birds at 60 wk of age. The cecal samples were subjected to community profiling of 16S rRNA and in silico metagenomics using a modified bar-coded Illumina sequencing method on a MiSeq Illumina sequencer. Our results revealed that compared to HFP birds, LFP birds are characterized by an increased overall microbial diversity (beta diversity) shown by a difference in the Bray-Curtis index (R2 = 0.171, P < 0.05). Furthermore, operational taxonomic unit comparisons showed an increased presence of Clostridiae and decreased presence of Lactobaccillacae in HFP birds when compared to LFP birds (False Discovery Rate < 0.05, Mann-Whitney comparisons). Our data indicate that there may be differences in the cecal profile between these 2 lines of laying hens. More research, building on this first study using sequencing technology for profiling the chicken cecal microbiome, will be needed in order to reveal if and how there exists a functional link between the performance of FP and the cecal microbial community.

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Birkl, P / Bharwani, A / Kjaer, J / et al: Differences in cecal microbiome of selected high and low feather-pecking laying hens. 2018.

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