**Researchers are aiming to unlock the microbial secrets of native
Australian animals’ low-methane digestive footprint and how environmentalchanges might disrupt this relationship**
Findings from this University of Queensland-led project could translate to abetter understanding of food digestion in people and livestock.
UQ scientists Professor Mark Morrison, Dr Rochelle Soo and Dr Paul Evans willbegin studying methane-producing microorganisms called ‘archaea’ fromherbivores including kangaroos, wombats, and koalas, and compare theirbehaviour with similar microbes from livestock and humans.
“Archaea live in the digestive tracts of many animals, but we don’t yet knowthe reasons why some of these animals appear to release less methane duringfood digestion than others,” Professor Morrison said.
“A better understanding of this relationship could potentially help scientistsfind ways to reduce methane emissions in livestock, decrease greenhouse gasemissions from the agricultural sector and positively impact climate change.
“The methane-producing archaea found in some native Australian herbivoresappear to be quite different to those found in other animal hosts, likecattle, sheep and humans.”
Professor Morrison and his team will use molecular and genomic sequencingmethods to investigate what features make the archaea from the different hostanimals unique.
“We believe these differences can be defined and will ultimately provide newopportunities to monitor and manage these methane-producing populations inanimals, and their impacts on the environment and society,” he said.
**“For instance, the presence of methane-producing archaea is not
uncommon in humans, and their presence has been linked with some digestivesymptoms, like constipation.**
“Interestingly, some types of methane-producing archaea from other animalspecies may use materials that are considered to be risk factors forcardiovascular disease in humans.
“While not the focus of our project, we do hope our discoveries in the biologyof methane-producing archaea from native Australian herbivores mightultimately be useful to understand and manage host-microbe relationships inpeople and livestock.”
This research is a collaboration between UQ’s Diamantina Institute, School ofChemistry and Molecular Biosciences, and the Australian Centre forEcogenomics.
The research grant is one of 47 UQ projects awarded an Australian ResearchCouncil Discovery Project for 2021.
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