Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Brown, Ashli

Committee Member

Kouba, Andrew

Committee Member

Sparks, Darrell

Committee Member

Suen, Garret

Committee Member

DuBien, Jan

Other Advisors or Committee Members

Willard, Scott

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Molecular Biology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology and Plant Pathology


Previously, the exact phylogenetic relationship between the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) and the red panda (Ailurus fulgens) has been unclear, but with the advent of molecular sequencing technologies, these two animals are now known to be distantly related. Although taxonomically distinct, these two panda species have several things in common, primarily their almost exclusively bamboo diet, but also their similar physical adaptations to their diet and their sympatry in some locations. What was unknown was if their similarities also extended to their gastrointestinal tract (GIT) microbiota. Using next-generation 16S rRNA parallel sequencing technologies, we uncovered several factors that impact bacterial communities of the pandas and also found that the two panda species harbor distinct microbial communities. In general, the Firmicutes and the Proteobacteria dominate both pandas’ gut microbiomes, with lesser contributions by the Actinobacteria and the Bacteroidetes. However, for the red panda, sex, age, and season significantly alter GIT microbiota. For giant pandas, we found that bacterial communities differed significantly between their normal fecal samples and mucus excretions. Together, these data display the plasticity of their bacterial communities, with several factors shaping GIT microbiota. As both species are highly threatened, understanding the relationship between the panda and their gut microbiome has given insight into the overall health of these uniquely herbivorous carnivores.



gut microbiota||dietary effects||giant panda||red panda