Humans versus chimps: Who keeps a cleaner bed? | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 18.05.2018
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Environment

Humans versus chimps: Who keeps a cleaner bed?

Chimpanzees are known to spend their nights in tree-top nests. Have you ever wondered how clean their sleeping quarters are compared to ours? Science finally has the answer.

Chimpanzees make their beds, just like us. Well, not exactly like us but they do sleep in beds — or rather nests — and they quite literally "make" them.

The great apes climb up into the trees where they lace branches together to construct a solid foundation on which they build a sort of arboreal mattress. They even pad it out with a soft cover made of leaves and twigs.

And they keep their beds clean — cleaner than many humans, apparently. At least that's what a team of researchers from North Carolina State University  in the United States has discovered.

The researchers took a close look at 41 chimpanzee nests in Tanzania, taking swabs and then analyzing the samples for microbial biodiversity. They also used a vacuum cleaner-style device on 15 of the nests to collect a sample of the arthropods, such as insects and spiders, as well as other tiny critters that dwell there. 

And their findings may surprise you. 

Flash-Galerie Haustiere Schimpanse im Senegal (AP)

As to be expected, the microbial life they found in the treetops was quite different from your average human bedroom but what was interesting is that the researchers detected almost no oral, skin or fecal bacteria.

"We found almost none of those microbes in the chimpanzee nests, which was a little surprising," says Megan Thoemmes, lead author of the study, which was published in  Royal Society Open Science.

It's especially surprising when you consider that 35 percent of the bacteria in our beds comes from our own bodies. (A pillow that's been in use for one week already has 17,000 times more bacteria than a typical toilet seat.)

The researchers also found few insects or ectoparasites. Those are parasites that live outside of their host.

"We also expected to see a significant number of arthropod parasites, but we didn't," Thoemmes says. "There were only four ectoparasites found, across all the nests we looked at. And that's four individual specimens, not four different species."

Looks like our closest living primate relatives are a lot tidier than one might think. 

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