New research U of A clarifies the link between the human diet, human-like gut bacteria and poor health.
Credit: Colin Cassady St. Clair
A new study by biologists at the University of Alberta shows that a diet rich in human food may wreak havoc on urban coyotes’ health.
The research team from the College of Science examined the stomach contents, gut microbiome and general health of nearly 100 coyotes in the Edmonton metropolitan area. Their results also show that wolves consuming more human food contain more human-like gut bacteria – with a possible effect on their nutrition and immune function, and based on similar results in dogs, and even behavior.
“If human food intake disturbs ‘normal’ wolf gut bacteria, it is possible that human food intake affects all these other aspects of coyote health and behavior as well,” said Scott Sugden, lead author and recent MSc graduate. Department of Biological Sciences.
“The gut microbiome is constantly associated with various aspects of human health and behavior, and the same is true for animals,” said Sajden.
Research also shows that urban coyotes, which eat more human food, also have less body fat, tense immune systems and more parasites. The study builds on Sogden’s previous research into the relationship between the human or human diet and the health of urban coyotes.
Urban coyotes that live on human food contain more human-like gut bacteria – which can affect their health, immune function and possibly even their behavior, according to the U of A study (Photo: Colin Cassady St Clair)
“If access to human food can affect the health and behavior of the wolf by disturbing the gut microbiome, it is important to address the roots of the problem by limiting their access to a protein-poor human diet,” Sugden explained.
“This is likely to be more effective, and easier to implement, than trying to manage aggressive coyotes and unhealthy coyotes as two separate issues,” he said, adding that another U of A project would directly address bold urban wolves.
Sogden completed the research under the direction of ecologist Colin Cassady St. Clair and microbiologist Lisa Stein, both of whom are professor in the Department of Biological Sciences.
The research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. U of A collaborators include undergraduate Kyra Ford and Dana Sanderson from MacEwan University, as well as the Edmonton Animal Welfare and Control Center and Animal Spoilage Monitor at Sherwood Park.
The study, “Altered Microbiome in Urban Coyotes Mediates Relationships Between Anthropogenic Diet and Poor Health,” was published in Scientific Reports.