Conservation of endangered species has become increasingly complex, and costly interventions to protect wildlife require a robust scientific evidence base. This includes consideration of the role of the microbiome in preserving animal health. Captivity introduces stressors not encountered in the wild including environmental factors and exposure to exotic species, humans and antimicrobial drugs. These stressors may perturb the microbiomes of wild animals, with negative consequences for their health and welfare and hence the success of the conservation project, and ultimately the risk of release of non-native organisms into native ecosystems. We compared the genomes of Staphylococcus aureus colonising critically endangered Livingstone’s fruit bats (Pteropus livingstonii) which have been in a captive breeding programme for 25 years, with those from bats in the endemic founder population free ranging in the Comoros Republic. Using whole genome sequencing, we compared 47 isolates from captive bats with 37 isolates from those free ranging in the Comoros Republic. Our findings demonstrate unexpected resilience in the bacteria carried, with the captive bats largely retaining the same two distinctive lineages carried at the time of capture. In addition, we found evidence of genomic changes which suggest specific adaptations to the bat host.
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