Nav: Home

Think chimpanzee beds are dirtier than human ones? Think again

May 15, 2018

Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) appear to keep tidier sleeping arrangements than humans do. That's one finding of a recent study that evaluated the microbes and arthropods found in the treetop beds that chimpanzees make each night.

"We know that human homes are effectively their own ecosystems, and human beds often contain a subset of the taxa - or types - of organisms found in the home," says Megan Thoemmes, lead author of a paper on the work and a Ph.D. student at North Carolina State University. "For example, about 35 percent of bacteria in human beds stem from our own bodies, including fecal, oral and skin bacteria.

"We wanted to know how this compares with some of our closest evolutionary relatives, the chimpanzees, which make their own beds daily," Thoemmes says.

To that end, researchers in Tanzania collected swabs of 41 chimpanzee beds, or nests. The swabs were used to test for microbial biodiversity. At 15 of the nests, researchers also used vacuums to sample the diversity of arthropods, such as insects and arachnids.

Not surprisingly, chimpanzee beds had vastly different biodiversity from human ones. Chimpanzee beds had a greater diversity of microbes, and the types of microbial life reflected the arboreal environments where the nests were found.

Notably, however, chimpanzee beds were much less likely to harbor fecal, oral or skin bacteria.

"We found almost none of those microbes in the chimpanzee nests, which was a little surprising," Thoemmes says.

"We also expected to see a significant number of arthropod parasites, but we didn't," Thoemmes says. "There were only four ectoparasites found, across all the nests we looked at. And that's four individual specimens, not four different species.

"This work really highlights the role that man-made structures play in shaping the ecosystems of our immediate environment," Thoemmes says. "In some ways, our attempts to create a clean environment for ourselves may actually make our surroundings less ideal."
-end-
The paper, "Ecology of Sleeping: The Microbial and Arthropod Associates of Chimpanzee Beds," will be published May 16 in the journal Royal Society Open Science. The paper was co-authored by Rob Dunn, Matthew Bertone, David Baltzegar, Russell Borski and Kaitlin Coyle of NC State; and Fiona Stewart, Adriana Hernandez-Aguilar, Naomi Cohen and Alexander Piel of the Ugalla Primate Project. The work was done with support from the National Science Foundation under grant number 0953390. The Ugalla Primate Project is supported by the UCSD/Salk Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny.

North Carolina State University

Related Biodiversity Articles:

Biodiversity is 3-D
The species-area relationship (SAC) is a long-time considered pattern in ecology and is discussed in most of academic Ecology books.
Thought Antarctica's biodiversity was doing well? Think again
Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are not in better environmental shape than the rest of the world.
Antarctica's biodiversity is under threat
A unique international study has debunked the popular view that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are in much better ecological shape than the rest of the world.
Poor outlook for biodiversity in Antarctica
The popular view that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are in a much better environmental shape than the rest of the world has been brought into question in a study publishing on March 28 in the open access journal PLOS Biology, by an international team lead by Steven L.
Temperature drives biodiversity
Why is the diversity of animals and plants so unevenly distributed on our planet?
Biodiversity needs citizen scientists
Could birdwatching or monitoring tree blossoms in your community make a difference in global environmental research?
Biodiversity loss in forests will be pricey
A new global assessment of forests -- perhaps the largest terrestrial repositories of biodiversity -- suggests that, on average, a 10 percent loss in biodiversity leads to a 2 to 3 percent loss in the productivity, including biomass, that forests can offer.
Biodiversity falls below 'safe levels' globally
Levels of global biodiversity loss may negatively impact on ecosystem function and the sustainability of human societies, according to UCL-led research.
Unravelling the costs of rubber agriculture on biodiversity
A striking decline in ant biodiversity found on land converted to a rubber plantation in China.
Nitrogen is a neglected threat to biodiversity
Nitrogen pollution is a recognized threat to sensitive species and ecosystems.

Related Biodiversity Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Crisis
There's no greater threat to humanity than climate change. What can we do to stop the worst consequences? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can save our planet and whether we can do it in time. Guests include climate activist Greta Thunberg, chemical engineer Jennifer Wilcox, research scientist Sean Davis, food innovator Bruce Friedrich, and psychologist Per Espen Stoknes.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#527 Honey I CRISPR'd the Kids
This week we're coming to you from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. There, host Bethany Brookshire led a panel of three amazing guests to talk about the promise and perils of CRISPR, and what happens now that CRISPR babies have (maybe?) been born. Featuring science writer Tina Saey, molecular biologist Anne Simon, and bioethicist Alan Regenberg. A Nobel Prize winner argues banning CRISPR babies won’t work Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm The researcher who created CRISPR twins defends...