It is not illegal, as poaching is, but there is certainly a debate that surrounds the practice. All in the name of conservation. Why shoot something you supposedly want to protect?
I struggled to keep my legs in the air with my toes pointing towards what I thought was the faint outline of the Southern Cross rising in the evening sky. With my hands under my hips — and butt perched against a large rock for support — I peddled an imaginary upside down bicycle in the air to pass the time as I struggled to make sure my new gut ecosystem stayed put inside me.
With my butt cheeks flexed and my, you know what puckered, I wondered if I had just made a terrible mistake. Could I really displace my western gut microbial ecosystem with that of a man, who, days before had dined on animals as diverse as zebra and monkey, possessed one of the most diverse gut microbiomes of any person in the world?
Would my immune system soon freak out at the presence of what should be some familiar Old microbial Friends now setting up shop throughout the slimy vastness of my gastrointestinal tract?
Or had I just unwittingly infected myself with some lethal bacteria or virus? The pros and cons — mostly cons — of my turkey basting activities raced through my anxious mind as I peddled my way into the evening.
Hadza hunter carrying his share of a recent zebra kill. My colleagues and I have been working and living amongst the Hadza hunter-gatherers of Cons of hunting essay for over a year now. The human samples have mostly included stool fecesCons of hunting essay also swabs of hands, foreheads, bottoms of feet, tongues some spitbreast milk from mothers, and so on.
Environmental sampling has included swabs of the plants and other foods they consume — like berries, roots, honey, etc. For the animals, we collect feces and when possible swabs of the stomach contents of larger animals — all of which end up covering the Hadza sooner or later during butchering see little blurb in Nature titled Please Pass the Microbes.
We also swab their homes — inside and out — along with the various water sources. In short, we swab everything including the researchers while in the field. Additional collaborators working on various analysis are scattered at universities in the US and Europe.
Twenty years of rainfall in Hadza Land taken at Kisema Ngeda. Among many things, we are interested in how Hadza microbes — along with their environmental microbes water, homes, plants and animals — shift between the wet and dry seasons. Due to some unique geography and global weather patternsEast Africa experiences a striking wet and dry season — essentially 6 months of on and off rain, followed by almost none see figure.
This reality means that during the dry season, as water holes dry up, the Hadza kill a lot more animals as dwindling water sources make the animals more predictable and easier to shoot with their poison arrows from hunting blinds aka ambush hunting. An increase in protein and fat from animals means a drop off in other caloric resources, mainly plants, as the Hadza will often binge on meat when possible note they have no storage so everything is eaten in a short period of time.
During the wet season when Hadza Land is awash in greenery and flowers, the Hadza enjoy an abundance of wild honey fat of the larvae included and massive stands of sugary berries. With the coming of the rains larger animals are more scattered and thus harder to kill, so make up less of the daily calories though its highly variable from day-to-day and week-to-week and from camp-to-camp.
No matter the season, fibrous baobab fruit and subsurface tubers are a daily constant for the Hadza. Yes, they consume lots and lots of dietary fiber!
The impact of seasonality on the Hadza and their microbial environment is an interesting and possibly important question as it relates to what a healthier microbiome might have looked like before the niceties and medications of late whacked the crap out of our gut bugs in the so-called modern world.
Should we really strive for a certain composition of gut microbes as many modern buggy-like products infer — such as those found in over the counter probiotics, various drinks and foods?
Or does the reality of our seasonal past reveal that our gut microbiome is a shape shifting metabolic organ pulling the strings on our health and well being in a bi- or even tri-annual circadian-like rhythm? Said differently, and with all due respect to the brilliant Harvard researcher Richard Wrangham of fire made us human fameis seasonality and its impact on our symbiotic microbes more responsible for what makes us human?
I like to think it might — plus, Seasonal Homo is kind of catchy. The Hadza are particularly microbially interesting over, say, remote groups in South America, as they still live in a part of Africa that purportedly gave rise to our genus Homo.
However, Lee Berger and his colleagues working new fossil sites in South Africa are giving East Africa a run for its money for the prize for which part of Africa holds the honor to the geographical cradle of humanity.
It is this foraging lifestyle that has endowed the Hadza with an extraordinary diversity of bacteria. And its the diversity they carry is what is most fascinating when compared to our less diverse western gut. The Hadza harbor a larger number of species of Treponema.
While the Hadza are not living fossils, nor in anyway represent a perfect referent population for early human evolution, their hunting and foraging lifestyle and constant contact with the natural microbial world, natural births, extended breast feeding and limited access to western medications, makes them one of the better populations in the world for trying to understand what our ancestral microbes may have once looked like, where we got them and at what point in our life history we acquired them, before the rest of us ran gut first into the buzz saw of globalization.
Clearly there is no ONE ancestral microbiome. My point is that ancestral equals diversity in the context I use it. We will leave those discussions up to others as its not a focus of our research. We are simply interested in how a free living population that is still intimately connected to nature acquires microbes and potentially most interesting of all, is the greater diversity of microbes they carry compared to western populations.
On the original question of whether or not the gut microbiome composition of the Hadza changes between wet and dry seasons, our initial — though unpublished data — suggest yes. To our knowledge this is the first study to document this pattern among rural and remote populations.
Ecologically speaking, this suggests there may not be one steady state — or equilibrium — for the human gut. Though we see seasonal shifts in the composition of the Hadza gut microbes across the same individuals, we are currently trying to determine if there exists any functional shifts as well.
In other words, even if the members shift around from season to season, are the metabolic capabilities — or ecosystem services — of the entire community conserved between seasons or do they change as well?
We should know this in the near future.Drea Christopher is a freelance writer with a bachelor's degree in English. She has more than 10 years of experience producing features and SEO articles for national consumer publications, trade magazines and industry leading Web content providers.
Trophy hunting is a specific type of hunting where a portion of the animal is kept as a souvenir to memorialize the experience. It is not illegal, as poaching is, but there is certainly a debate. Hunting is the practice of pursuing animals for food, recreation, or trade.
In modern use, the term refers to regulated and legal hunting, as distinguished from poaching, which is the killing, trapping or capture of animals contrary to law.
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