Taxon-specific associations between protozoal and methanogen populations in the rumen and a model rumen system

Richard Sharp, Cherie J. Ziemer, Marshall D. Stern, David A. Stahl

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Methanogen populations in the rumen and in model rumen systems (operated over a 240-h period) were studied using the small subunit (SSU) rRNA phylogenetic framework for group-specific enumerations. Representatives of the family Methanobacteriaceae were the most abundant methanogen population in the rumen, accounting for 89.3% (± 1.02%) of total archaea in the rumen fluid and 99.2% (± 1.8%) in a protozoal fraction of rumen fluid. Their percentage of archaea in the model rumen systems declined from 84% (± 8.5%) to 54% (± 7.8%) after 48 h of operation, correlated with loss of protozoa from these systems. The Methanomicrobiales, encompassed by the families Methanomicrobiaceae, Methanocorpusculaceae, and Methanospirillaceae were the second most abundant population and accounted for 12.1% (± 2.15%) of total SSU rRNA in rumen fluid. Additionally this group was shown to be essentially free living, since only a negligible hybridization signal was detected with the ruminal protozoal fraction. This group constituted a more significant proportion of total archaea in whole rumen fluid, 12.1% (± 2.1%) and model rumen fluid containing no protozoa (26.3 ± 7.7%). In contrast, the Methanosarcinales, generally considered the second most abundant population of rumen methanogens, accounted for only 2.8% (± 0.3%) of total archaeal SSU rRNA in rumen fluid.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-78
Number of pages8
JournalFEMS microbiology ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1998

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture. The authors wish to thank the personnel at the University of Minnesota Dairy Research and Teaching Facility for care and feeding of the rumen fluid donor cow.


  • Methanogen
  • Phylogeny
  • Rumen protozoon
  • Symbiosis
  • rRNA


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