AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Author: metalibolism

The Secret of Human Gut Microbiomes in Athletes

Recently, scientists have tried to identify a correlation between the foods we eat and the microbes found in our gut. Although they were not successful in finding an answer, what they did find could be even more important in our understanding of the human gut microbiome. Two studies were conducted, one where microbes were compared between normal people, and another where microbes were compared between normal people and elite runners – all of these people ate the foods they would normally eat. Both of these studies were important in revealing the ways our diet does not impact the microbes found in our gut.

The study between regular individuals revealed that “each person has that unique mixture [of microbes] that’s special to only them” and that the same food can have drastically different effects in different individuals. Even people that consistently ate the same foods experienced changes in their microbiome. The study comparing elite runners to regular individuals found that the runners had a greater amount of microbes from the genus Veillonella after doing extreme exercise. Veillonella feast on lactate and make propionate which was found to raise heart rate and oxygen use in mice, as well as boost human metabolism. Mice given the Veillonella atypica from the runners were found to run for 13 percent longer than the mice in the control group. This study showed that it was the exercise, rather than diet, which contributed to the Veillonella in the gut microbiome, although lactate allowed the microbes to grow. Both studies concluded that they would need a larger sample to make any concrete conclusions, but they both show that diet does not determine the human gut microbiome as many thought.

Climate Change Threatens Drastic Changes to the Food Chain

     Climate change has been an ongoing issue for several decades now, yet there seems to be little improvement and far worse consequences than we could have ever imagined. Aside from the devastating impacts global warming has had on our atmosphere, it has also threatened wildlife that rely on certain habitats and prey for survival. The most crucial changes that have occured are regarding the ocean. Ocean warming specifically has impacted marine environments and ice in the arctic that many animals rely on for breeding and raising their young. This has subsequently transformed the food chain.

     A recent study at Princeton University gives a “specific timeframe for when ocean changes will occur” as a result of atmospheric carbon dioxide due to human activity. The ocean has helped slow global warming because of its ability to absorb heat and carbon from the atmosphere, but we can now see the harmful effects from this, namely ocean warming, and how it will continue to increase in the future. The warming of the oceans has a major impact on the food chain because it causes species to either die out, look for more favorable environments, or look for another food source. Through this recent study, scientists were able to isolate the direct impacts of global warming on the oceans from the more natural changes. Scientists used the Earth System Model which has an interactive carbon cycle to see changes that are likely to occur in the future if ocean warming is not prioritized right now. 


     However, these predicted changes in the oceans have already been affecting marine life starting from the smallest organisms to gray whales. All of these species are a part of the food chain and suffer as a result of changes in the ocean. When the ocean temperatures rise, the population of smaller prey decline and larger predators must search North for alternate food sources. It also causes the amount of arctic ice to become sparser, which affects the population of animals that use the ice to breed and raise their young, as seals do, or use as a tactic for hunting, as polar bears do.  The higher the ocean temperature rises, the more difficult it is for many species to survive. It is also important to note that rising ocean temperatures affect our atmosphere. As permafrost melts, it releases the 1,600 billion tonnes of carbon frozen within it. Similar to the food chain, global warming affects us all, and it is our duty to take action now. U.N. representatives stated that “if we act now, we can reduce carbon emissions within 12 years,” a goal we should all be striving for. 


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