Baboon Microbiomes and Health

“Everyone in here has a different microbiome, it’s like a fingerprint.” quoted Dr. Elizabeth Archie, a professor at the University of Notre Dame. A human’s microbiome helps the human stay healthy by doing certain jobs. An example of this process would be the gut microbiome digesting food. But what do microbiomes have to do with baboons and their health?

A microbiome is a community of microbes, starting from the gut. Dr. Archie quoted, “Your microbiome does a lot of specific jobs for you.” An example is when a human microbiome captures energy and helps us fight off diseases.

A beautiful image that depicts the setting where health and microbiomes flourish.

The same can be said about a baboon. The microbe allows it to extract energy from food to fuel the baboon’s body, and it also plays a role in how baboons behave in social interactions.

This infographic, created by Penn student Zoe Hurley, shows the health effects a microbiome has on a baboon.

The way a baboon acts around other baboons can affect its health and behavior. For example, baboons of the same group generally have the same microbiome. This can lead baboons from other groups to act differently when they are around another group. “They’re useful in how animals communicate by smell,” quoted Dr. Elizabeth Archie.

An example of the many charts and graphs that Dr.Elizabeth Archie uses to determine the different baboon groups.

Another instance of the importance of a microbiome to a baboon is the ability to detect danger. If and when a baboon is in trouble, the microbiome allows it to sense its surroundings and react to the situation.

Microbiomes in baboons can also give information about their diet. Dr. Archie did a case study that showed two different baboon groups,  Mica and Viola, as shown in the charts to the       left.

Viola’s group ate mostly grass corms, grass seed head, and acacia pods. The same can be said about Mica’s group. If any baboons were to separate from their groups and end up with the other group, they would still be able to eat and make energy for their bodies.

It’s crazy; microbiomes control everything, including how we act. Without our gut telling us what to do, evolution would not have been possible in both us and in baboons. So next time someone tells you to “go with your gut,” you should really listen!

 

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