Humans are less human than we thought.
September 13, 2012 3:37 AM Subscribe
Icky face-pooping flesh mites are only the tip of the iceberg.
posted by Sleeper (59 comments total)
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You've heard that your gut bacteria are necessary to help you digest, meaning not all germs are bad. Without them, we couldn't digest healthily. But stop and look at how far our interconnectedness with other forms of life goes: 1. Human DNA itself is at least 8.3% ancient viruses; without one of these viruses you could never have been born. 2. Mitochondria in human cells originated when the same type of bacteria that causes typhus disease raided one of our cellular ancestors and instead of hijacking it was pressed into service. (The same origin as chloroplasts in plants from cyanobacteria). 3. Far more of the cells in your body are non-human microorganisms than actual human cells.
This relationship is not just interconnectedness. This is integration.This post was inspired by a recent post about Demodex Folliculorum.
4. There has been a reported case of a bacterium acquiring some of our DNA in the aforementioned manner, though it might have just been sample contamination.
With the completion this year of both the ENCODE
) and the human microbiome project
, it's possible that information from one might lead to insights into the other.
Life is fractal: We're complex individuals who are part of a complex society that's part of a complex species that's part of a complex biosphere. Threads in the tapestry of life. We're also tapestries ourselves: We are the universe for trillions of smaller organisms. Each of the Earth's 7 billion-plus human bodies contains about ten times more microorganism cells than human cells.
Turns out, human biology is a lot like an old article in The Onion
World's Top Scientists Ponder: What If The Whole Universe Is, Like, One Huge Atom? ....Among the revolutionary ideas expected to be raised at the historic week-long summit is the possibility that, like, our whole friggin' universe might be just one big atom in, say, some super-duper huge thing out there somewhere, or something. ...."Even weirder is, like, if we're just one big atom in a larger universe, how do we know all the little atoms don't have, you know, little universes in them, with, like, little people living on them, with little cars and little houses, and maybe even itsy-bitsy tiny-ass international symposiums on cutting-edge theoretical physics, even."
The relationships between different organisms sharing a body is either symbiotic, commensal, parasitic, or pathogenic.
Just as some microorganisms maintain symbiotic relationships with us, their hosts, we might someday find a way to be more symbiotic with the global biosphere of which we're a part. Before our host planet recognizes us as a pathogen.