Right now, there are trillions of bacteria living in your gut, making up about one percent of your body weight. They're supposed to be there--we need them to help us digest food and fight off diseases. The same is true for most mammals; in general, just about every mammal from dogs to dolphins relies on a community of helpful bacteria, called a microbiome, living inside them for health and survival. Many animals have even evolved along with their gut bacteria to work together better, to the point that closely related host species typically share more similar microbiomes. But a new study has identified one group of mammals that seems to buck that trend: bats. A new paper, published online on November 12, 2019 in mSystems, reveals that the microbiomes of closely-related bats can be totally different from each other, which suggests that having a community of helpful gut bacteria may not be so important for this already eccentric group of mammals. The open-access article is titled “Ecology and Host Identity Outweigh Evolutionary History in Shaping the Bat Microbiome.” "It shifts the paradigm we've been operating under, that animals require microbes for digestion and nutrient acquisition. That's true for us, but it may not be true for all species," says lead author Holly Lutz, PhD, a research associate at Chicago's Field Museum and post-doctoral researcher at the University of California, San Diego. "The trends we're seeing suggest that bats may not depend on bacteria the same way many other mammals do, and that they can survive just fine without a strict suite of bacteria in their guts to help them digest their food." To learn about the relationships between bats and their microbes, Dr. Lutz and her colleagues took samples of bacteria from the skin, tongues, and guts of 497 bats from 31 different species in Kenya and Uganda.
Login Or Register To Read Full Story