Evolution of the marsupial gut microbiome and adaptation to eucalypt toxins (2015–2017)
Eucalyptus leaves comprise all or part of the diet of some masurpials including koalas. Gut microbiota assist
in the ability of these folivores to tolerate eucalyptus toxins although present understanding is rudimentary.
This project will use culture-independent molecular methods to identify and characterise gut populations
involved in phytochemical detoxification by comparative analysis with diprotodont relatives that are not
capable of digesting eucalyptus leaves. This will highlight evolutionary convergence of gut microbiomes in
toxic folivores and reveal mechanisms by which microorganisms respond to and metabolise eucalypt toxins.
A broader evolutionary context of marsupial digestive function will assist in ongoing conservation efforts.