How gut microbes helped our ancestors adapt and survive during Paleolithic era
Researchers studied a modern hunter-gatherer community, the Hadza of Tanzani, and found that they harbour a unique microbial profile with features yet unseen in any other human group.
The study further shows how gut microbiota may have helped our ancestors adapt and survive during the Paleolithic.
Bacterial populations have co-evolved with humans over millions of years, and have the potential to help us adapt to new environments and foods. Studies of the Hadza offer an especially rare opportunity for scientists to learn how humans survive by hunting and gathering, in the same environment and using similar foods as our ancestors did.
The research team, composed of anthropologists, microbial ecologists, molecular biologists, and analytical chemists, and led in part by Stephanie Schnorr and Amanda Henry of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, compared the Hadza gut microbiota to that of urban living Italians, representative of a "westernized" population.
Their results show that the Hadza have a more diverse gut microbe ecosystem, i.e. more bacterial species compared to the Italians.
The Hadza gut microbiota is well suited for processing indigestible fibres from a plant-rich diet and likely helps the Hadza get more energy from the fibrous foods that they consume.
The results have been published in the journal Nature Communications.
(Posted on 16-04-2014)