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article imageGreat apes have larger bacterial diversity than humans

By Tim Sandle     Nov 8, 2014 in Science
Austin - According to a new study, chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas harbor more microbial diversity in their guts than humans do.
Scientists from the University of Texas in Austin have made some interesting discoveries about the great apes in the wild, in terms of their gut bacteria, and this has led to some comparisons with humans in terms of the microbial content (or what is commonly termed the "microbiome.")
The first finding is that, compared with humans, the gut microbiomes of chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas are remarkably similar. The second finding is that the diversity of gut microbes found in the great apes are greater than those found in people.
In research report, the scientists write: “Compositional change in the microbiome was slow and clock-like during African ape diversification, but human microbiomes have deviated from the ancestral state at an accelerated rate."
Analyzing the findings, New Scientist expands the findings to human development: "human evolution was accompanied by both a rapid divergence of the microbiome from the microbiome of apes, and a drastic loss of diversity of the microbial community."
This loss of microbiome diversity had a lot to do with the human preference for animal-based diets. However, what the implications of this are and whether they can inform about human health and medicine remain to be seen.
The findings have been published in the journal PNAS, in a study headed "Rapid changes in the gut microbiome during human evolution."
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