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Birds and bats have strange gut microbiomes—probably because they can fly


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At a time when kombucha is commonplace on cafe menus and "probiotic-fortified" has become the newest health buzzword, our guts have never been more relevant. With good reason, humans have begun paying more attention to the bacteria living in our guts—our microbiomes. The microbiome helps fight disease and aid digestion, playing a pivotal role in many creatures' wellbeing, from canines to primates to rodents. But for the first time— largely in part due to museum collections—scientists were able to compare the guts of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians alike. It turns out that not all species rely so heavily on their gut microbiomes. In fact, birds and bats have oddly similar microbiomes, and neither appear to rely on them much. "Why?" you may ask: to accommodate their ability to fly, scientists think.

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