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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Comparison of methanogen diversity of yak (Bos grunniens) and cattle (Bos taurus) from the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, China

Xiao Dan Huang1, Hui Yin Tan2, Ruijun Long1*, Juan Boo Liang3 and André-Denis G Wright4

Author Affiliations

1 International Centre for Tibetan Plateau Ecosystem Management, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China

2 Institute of Bioscience, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang 43400 UPM, Malaysia

3 Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Serdang 43400 UPM, Malaysia

4 Department of Animal Science, University of Vermont, 570 Main Street, Burlington, Vermont 05405, USA

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BMC Microbiology 2012, 12:237  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-12-237

Published: 19 October 2012

Abstract

Background

Methane emissions by methanogen from livestock ruminants have significantly contributed to the agricultural greenhouse gas effect. It is worthwhile to compare methanogen from “energy-saving” animal (yak) and normal animal (cattle) in order to investigate the link between methanogen structure and low methane production.

Results

Diversity of methanogens from the yak and cattle rumen was investigated by analysis of 16S rRNA gene sequences from rumen digesta samples from four yaks (209 clones) and four cattle (205 clones) from the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau area (QTP). Overall, a total of 414 clones (i.e. sequences) were examined and assigned to 95 operational taxonomic units (OTUs) using MOTHUR, based upon a 98% species-level identity criterion. Forty-six OTUs were unique to the yak clone library and 34 OTUs were unique to the cattle clone library, while 15 OTUs were found in both libraries. Of the 95 OTUs, 93 putative new species were identified. Sequences belonging to the Thermoplasmatales-affiliated Linage C (TALC) were found to dominate in both libraries, accounting for 80.9% and 62.9% of the sequences from the yak and cattle clone libraries, respectively. Sequences belonging to the Methanobacteriales represented the second largest clade in both libraries. However, Methanobrevibacter wolinii (QTPC 110) was only found in the cattle library. The number of clones from the order Methanomicrobiales was greater in cattle than in the yak clone library. Although the Shannon index value indicated similar diversity between the two libraries, the Libshuff analysis indicated that the methanogen community structure of the yak was significantly different than those from cattle.

Conclusion

This study revealed for the first time the molecular diversity of methanogen community in yaks and cattle in Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau area in China. From the analysis, we conclude that yaks have a unique rumen microbial ecosystem that is significantly different from that of cattle, this may also help to explain why yak produce less methane than cattle.