Dead guts spill history of extinct microbes

Date:

Share post:

Extinct microbes in fecal samples from archaeological sites across the world resemble those found in present-day rural African communities more than they resemble the microbes found in the gut of cosmopolitan US adults, according to research published December 12 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Cecil Lewis and colleagues from the University of Oklahoma.

Dead guts spill history of extinct microbes
This shows microbiomes across time and populations [Credit: Tito RY, Knights D, Metcalf J, Obregon-Tito AJ, Cleeland L, et al. (2012) Insights from Characterizing Extinct Human Gut Microbiomes. PLoS ONE 7(12):e51146.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051146]

The researchers analyzed 1400-8000-year-old fecal samples preserved at three archaeological sites: natural mummies from Caserones in northern Chile, and samples from Hinds Cave in the southern US and Rio Zape in northern Mexico. They also used samples from Otzi the Iceman and a soldier frozen on a glacier for nearly a century. They compared the now-extinct microbes in these samples to microbes present in current-day soil and compost, as well as the microbes present in mouths, gut and skin of people in rural African communities and cosmopolitan US adults.

The authors discovered that the extinct human microbes from natural mummies closely resembled compost samples, while one sample from Mexico was found to match that from a rural African child. Overall, the extinct microbial communities were more similar to those from present rural populations than those from cosmopolitan ones. The study concludes, “These results suggest that the modern cosmopolitan lifestyle resulted in a dramatic change to the human gut microbiome.”

As Lewis explains, “It is becoming accepted that modern aseptic and antibiotic practices, are often beneficial but come with a price, such as compromising the natural development of our immune system through changing the relationship we had with microbes ancestrally. What is unclear is what that ancestral state looked like. This paper demonstrates that we can use ancient human biological samples to learn about these ancestral relationships, despite the challenges of subsequent events like degradation and contamination.”

Source: Public Library of Science [December 12, 2012]

ADVERTISEMENT

spot_img

Related articles

200,000 year old Stone Age tools found in Chhattisgarh

In a sensational archaeological discovery, Stone Age implements, believed to be 200,000 years old, were found at a...

Forests fight global warming in ways more important than previously understood

Forests play a complex role in keeping the planet cool, one that goes far beyond the absorption of...

What are the chances of life on another planet?

In an infinite universe, most scientists agree, the odds of life existing on a planet besides Earth are...

Egyptian dog mummy infested with parasites

A dog mummy has revealed the first archaeological evidence of bloodsucking parasites plaguing Fido's ancestors in Egypt during...

Cosmology standard candle not so standard after all

Astronomers have turned up the first direct proof that "standard candles" used to illuminate the size of the...

New sauropod species described by paleontologists

Researchers from Italy and Portugal describe yet another new sauropod species from 150 million years ago, from Wyoming,...

Parthian city of Hatra in an alarming state

In the middle of an Iraqi northern desert, the imposing remains of the 2000 year old city of...

Mound near lunar south pole formed by unique volcanic process

A giant mound near the Moon's south pole appears to be a volcanic structure unlike any other found...