• Question: Are cows the only animals that would have microbes or would other animals have it and would us humans have it?

    Asked by sarah07 to Chloe on 6 May 2020.
    • Photo: Chloe Matthews

      Chloe Matthews answered on 6 May 2020:

      Great question! Every living thing has microbes living on it or in it. We have microbes on our skin, in our mouths, in our stomachs. There are microbes in the soil, on trees, in insects, in bees. We use good microbes to make certain types of food like cheese, yogurt, beer and sourdough bread. They are everywhere! Most of them are very important for us and our ecosystem. Some of them can make us sick. But our good microbes can help to fight off the bad microbes.
      Most microbes are all specialised for a particular area on our body. Some areas of our bodies have lots of different microbes, like our gastrointestinal tract (we call it high diversity) and other areas have only a small number of different microbes, like the skin in some areas of our body (low diversity). If you think of it like a tropical rainforest with lots of different flowers, trees, insects and animals, that’s high diversity. Now think of the desert, it might only have a few different plants and animals, that’s low diversity.
      We have some of the same microbes as cows in our gastrointestinal tract but they are in different abundances or amounts. Cows eat different food and have a different way of digesting food than humans do. Because of this, they need different microbes to break down food. They have 4 stomachs (we call any animal with 4 stomachs ruminants), that are much bigger than our one stomach (any animal with one stomach is a monogastric), and every stomach has a slightly different job.