Date of Award

Summer 2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS) in Biology



Committee Chair

Ashley Turner


Black vultures, Coragyps atratus, are obligate scavenging birds that consume and dispose of decaying carcasses and carrion. They fulfill a key ecological niche in the environments in which they live. It has been observed that these vultures sometimes excrete bodily waste onto their legs. This adaptive behavior could help aid them in controlling bacteria and other microbes they encounter while stepping into a carcass to eat. This study directly examined the antimicrobial properties of the excrement of black vultures across various bacterial species utilizing a zone of inhibition test and a nematode species utilizing a survival assay. The black vulture microbiome was also examined by characterizing the bacterial species present in the vulture excrement utilizing 16S ribosomal RNA sequencing. Antimicrobial experiments revealed the whole vulture excrement yielded positive zones of inhibition for Bacillus coagulans and Staphlococcus aureus and no impact of development and early survival for Caenorhabditis elegans. The microbiome of the black vulture’s excrement had 31 bacterial species identified across 9 classes. Overall, there are several current threats to black vultures, including environmental contamination and poisoning. It is important to understand more about the complex biology, health, and status of black vultures to ensure they do not become threatened in Alabama and the United States.



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