Maternal parity can impact offspring growth, but the mechanisms driving this effect are unclear. Here, we test the hypothesis that vertically transmitted microbiota may be one potential mechanism. We analyzed 118 fecal and milk samples from mother-offspring vervet monkey dyads across the first 6 months of life. Despite poorer milk production, offspring born to low parity females grew larger than their counterparts. These offspring exhibited reduced alpha diversity in the first days of life, stronger seeding of maternal milk microbiota, Bacteroides fragilis dominance, and a greater abundance of glycan utilization pathways. Moreover, the attainment of greater body mass by 6 months of age was mediated by reduced early life alpha diversity and B. fragilis dominance. This work demonstrates that the establishment of a specialized, milk-oriented gut microbiota promotes infant growth and suggests an evolutionarily conserved developmental role of B. fragilis in primates.
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