Hominid superorganisms

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Science  22 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6297, pp. 350-351
DOI: 10.1126/science.aag2788

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Mutualistic symbiotic relationships are those in which both species benefit; for example, the vivid colors of coral reefs come from symbiotic algae that provide their living coral hosts with nutrients and oxygen through photosynthesis in exchange for protection. A similar mutualistic relationship exists between gut-dwelling bacteria and their animal hosts (1). It remains unclear, however, to what degree symbiosis has shaped host-microbial interactions and coevolution. On page 380 of this issue, Moeller et al. show that gut bacterial strains cospeciated with hominids (apes and humans) over the past 15 million years (2). These findings set the stage for exploring the evolutionary processes that underlie the symbiotic relationship between hominids and their gut-dwelling microbes.