News ID: 215153
Published: 0525 GMT May 16, 2018

Chimpanzees have cleaner beds than humans

Chimpanzees have cleaner beds than humans
Chimpanzees build their own beds each night.

Chimpanzee beds are cleaner than those of humans because, unlike us, the animals change their ‘sheets’ every night, a new study found.

The great apes build complex tree nests out of branches and leaves each day which contain fewer body bacteria than beds in most human households, according to

By contrast, human beds are teeming with fecal, oral or skin bacteria, according to the new investigation by North Carolina State University.

Compared with human beds, the chimp nests had a much greater variety of bugs.

However, they were far less likely to harbor ‘dirty’ fecal, oral or skin bacteria.

Megan Thoemmes, who led the research in Tanzania, said, "We know that human homes are effectively their own ecosystems, and human beds often contain a subset of the taxa — or types — of organisms found in the home.

"For example, about 35 percent of bacteria in human beds stem from our own bodies, including fecal, oral and skin bacteria.

"We wanted to know how this compares with some of our closest evolutionary relatives, the chimpanzees, which make their own beds daily.

"We found almost none of those microbes in the chimpanzee nests, which was a little surprising.”

The scientists were similarly surprised when they tried to vacuum up parasitic arthropods — fleas and lice — from the chimpanzee nests.

They expected to find hoards of the bloodsuckers, but collected no more than a handful.

Thoemmes said, "There were only four ectoparasites found, across all the nests we looked at.

“And that's four individual specimens, not four different species. This work really highlights the role that man-made structures play in shaping the ecosystems of our immediate environment.

"In some ways, our attempts to create a clean environment for ourselves may actually make our surroundings less ideal."

Published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, the study is the first to compare the composition of species found in contemporary human homes to that of other structures built by mammals, including those of non-human primates.

The beds made by great apes, be they chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos or orangutans, are typically used for a single night and then abandoned.

One explanation for such movement is that the practice decreases the ability of pathogens and pests to build up at a sleeping site and reduces the microbial odors associated with the individual that might attract predators.


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