Comparative Analysis of the Fecal Microbiota of Wild and Captive Beal’s Eyed Turtle (Sacalia bealei) by 16S rRNA Gene Sequencing

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The Beal’s eyed turtle (Sacalia bealei) is threatened with extinction due to hunting for large-scale trade. In Hong Kong, there are some of the world’s remaining wild populations of S. bealei, as well as a breeding colony. This breeding colony is at the core of conservation efforts (captive breeding, reintroduction programs). Therefore, we would like to know how captivity, in particular diet, affects the gut microbiota. Using high-throughput 16S rRNA gene sequencing, we comparatively analyzed the fecal microbiota of wild and captive S. bealei. We found that wild S. bealei have higher alpha diversity than captive S. bealei, but the difference was not significant. Significant differences were found in β-diversity; at the phylum level, wild S. bealei have higher relative abundances of Proteobacteria and captive S. bealei have higher relative abundances of Firmicutes. At the genus level, Cetobacterium and Citrobacter are more abundant in wild S. bealei, while Clostridium spp. are significantly more abundant in captive S. bealei. These results suggest conditions in captivity, with diet being a major factor, influence the gut microbiota of S. bealei. The connection between diet and health has always been considered for captive animals, and in this study we use the gut microbiota as an another tool to assess health.
Original languageEnglish
Article number570890
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Early online date6 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 6 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

This research has benefited from financial support of Lingnan University, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China under the Faculty Research Grant scheme (Project No. 102166); the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Project No. 31960226); Ocean Park Conservation Fund (Project No. RP01.1718; and the Croucher Foundation Chinese Visitorship.

We would like to thank the Hong Kong Society of Herpetology Foundation (HKHerp) and the Ocean Park Hong Kong for access to captive individuals. We would like to thank Lily Ng, Billy Wong, Ken Lee, and Howard Chan for help with fecal sample collection. Lastly, we would like to thank the following people for helpful comments in improving the manuscript: Itzue W. Caviedes-Solis, Ivan P. Y. Lam, Henry Lee, Amy Fok, Julia Leung, and two reviewers.


  • 16S rRNA gene sequencing
  • Cetobacterium
  • Citrobacter
  • Hong Kong
  • gut microbiota


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