The Extraordinary Evolution of the Great Ape Microbiome

The Extraordinary Evolution of the Great Ape Microbiome

December 20, 2017


727 E. Tyler St.
Tempe, AZ 85287


Biodesign Institute, Auditorium

Date and Time

January 18, 2018, 1:00 pm (Length: 1 hour 0 minutes)

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Presented by Howard Ochman, PhD, Professor, Department of Integrative Biology, University of Texas at Austin

Despite the large body of work concerning the human microbiome and its role in human health, there is relatively little information about how the microbiome evolves or the factors causing differentiation of microbial communities among species. Analysis of the gut microbiomes of great apes, including humans, revealed that the phylogeny based on microbiome compositions was congruent with the known relationships of the hosts.

Investigations of the microbiomes of great apes have informed numerous features of the human microbiome. These include the effects of social behavior, diet and disease state on microbiome contents and on the assortment of the gut microbial communities into enterotypes, which has been found to have preceded the split among great ape species. By comparing the gut microbiomes in a phylogenetic context, Ochman’s lab reconstructed how the human microbiome has evolved accelerated rates and became depleted during great ape diversification. Furthermore, his team showed that certain bacterial lineages have co-diversified with great ape hosts during the past 15 million years. The next major challenge is to determine if these co-diversified lineages confer functional roles that are beneficial to certain host species and to specific subpopulations of humans.

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