Ah, Ape-Scat, Pleasing is the Fragrance of Your Perfumes

One of the fundamental ontological questions of our day is surely, "is there anything you can't do with ape scat?" Well, OK, this might be pushing it a bit far, but a recent article in the New York Times makes a pretty strong case for the blessings of this pungent goo.  My collaborator Beatrice Hahn, quoted in this article as saying that ape scat is "worth its weight in gold," has been collecting fecal samples gathered by far-flung ape researchers throughout Africa. In addition to providing fundamental data on the landscape-level distribution of SIV (the work on which I have collaborated with her), Beatrice's ape scat collection has now yielded the secret of the origin of Plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly of the five species that cause human malaria infection. The paper by Liu and colleagues appeared in the 23 September issue of Nature.  There is a nice accompanying piece by Eddie Holmes as well. It turns out that P. falciparum malaria spilled over into human populations from western gorillas, rather than from chimpanzees as had long been thought. Makes all that smelly collecting actually seem worthwhile...

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