Evolution and function of marsupial gut microbiota
Despite growing interest in the form and function of mammalian gut microbiomes, few culture-independent studies have focused on the microbiomes of Australian marsupials. In particular, how do the microbiota of the koala and other toxic Eucalypt folivores enable these animals to occupy this specialised dietary niche? We are addressing this question by surveying the gut microbial communities of diprotodont marsupials across a range of phylogeny, diet, and gut morphology. Furthermore, beyond community profiles, we are probing community functionality through metagenome shotgun sequencing of the Vombatiformes (koala and wombat) gut microbiota. Using differential coverage binning and metabolic reconstruction, we have the comparative power to identify specialised pathways in koala and wombat microbiota, from the community-level down to the level of individual population genomes.