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An empty gut: the recent loss of our microbial symbionts

Author(s): Christina Warinner ; Krithivasan Sankaranarayanan ; Thomas Stoellner ; Frank Ruehli ; Cecil Lewis

Year: 2016

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The increasing connectedness of global human populations during the Anthropocene has spread microbial pathogens far and wide. Yet at the same time, the human gut microbiome has simplified, leaving industrialised societies with less complex and diverse microbiota, and increased risk for chronic inflammatory disorders. Among the many taxa that have been lost is the bacterial genus Treponema. Treponema are present in the gut microbiota of great apes, present day hunter-gatherers in Africa and South America, and many small-scale agricultural societies, but they have been systematically lost in metropolitan North America and Europe. In this paper we present paleogenomic data from well-preserved human coprolites from several ancient global populations. Our findings suggest that the human gut microbiome has undergone dramatic changes over the past two millennia. We argue that sometimes it is the transported beliefs, behaviors, and practices of humans, rather than the direct translocation of species, that ultimately have the most profound and widespread effects on species composition.

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An empty gut: the recent loss of our microbial symbionts. Christina Warinner, Krithivasan Sankaranarayanan, Thomas Stoellner, Frank Ruehli, Cecil Lewis. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403227)


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min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America