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Chimpanzee Nest Microbes

May 28, 2018

Are ape beds cleaner than ours?



The sleeping arrangements of apes. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Every night, chimpanzees build themselves a cozy nest to sleep in out of tree branches and leaves. Now, a microbial analysis reveals that, compared with human beds, chimpanzee nests are pretty darn clean. Scientists sampled 41 chimpanzee nests in Tanzania, according to University of Oslo primatologist Adriana Hernandez-Aguilar. They found that the nests harbored few skin or fecal bacteria – similar to the surrounding trees. In contrast, human beds are teaming with these microbes.  


In a way you could say that human homes were more dirty than chimpanzee beds, which is not what most people will think. 


Her team writes in Royal Society Open Science that our closest relatives likely avoid microbes by building a new nest every night, whereas sleeping in the same spot fills our beds with them. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard