Scientists study microbes from 100-year-old snail guts

(ORDO NEWS) — In July 1920, a Colorado scientist collected Oreohelix strigosa snails and brought them to his laboratory, carefully preserving his findings.

Now, a century later, ecologists at the University of Colorado Museum have returned to these snails, with amazing insights into the diverse communities of bacteria and other microbes that thrived in the snails’ guts.

For the first time in history, researchers have used modern DNA screening tools to identify microbes that once lived in the guts of animals that died a hundred years ago.

The researchers found evidence of more than 7,000 organisms, mostly bacteria, hiding inside each snail. The ethanol did not appear to destroy their DNA: The team found equally diverse microbiomes in Henderson’s century-old samples as well as in snails the ecologists collected themselves and never stored in a jar.

They noted that the microbiome of the snail specimens had changed somewhat over the century for unclear reasons. Centennial snails, for example, contained many bacteria belonging to the genera Bradyrhizobium, Alicycliphilus and Cloacibacterium.

Snails collected in 2018, meanwhile, were partial to Flavobacterium and the Chitinophagaceae and Cerasicoccaceae families.

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