Time for a Da Vinci Upgrade [The Microbiome Image of the Day]

By Carl Zimmer | October 3, 2010 2:42 pm

VitruvianmanI’ve been invited to give a few talks in the wake of my article in the New York Times on the microbiome, and so I’m prowling for beautiful images that drive home the fact that we are microbial rain forests, rather than sterile mammals. Below is my favorite image of the day.

It’s from a survey of microbes across people’s bodies, published last year in Science. The inner circle shows the major lineages of bacteria found in all the subjects in each part of the body, while the ring shows the ones found in some people but not others.

This picture was stuffed away in the supplementary materials for the paper, so I missed it the first time around. I’m glad I found it–it’s a new Vitruvian man for our microbiomic age.microbiome survey

Comments (7)

  1. Lol, we lost the penis but gained a bunch of microbes . . . interesting.


  2. Ajay

    right but i wonder who’s the new Leonardo!!?!!

  3. zeke

    Why is there a significant difference in microbe populations between the left and right auditory canal?

    [CZ: There’s lots of differences between your left and right hands too. Nobody is sure why. It’s just a very complex ecosystem.]

  4. JMW

    @3. Zeek Why is there a significant difference in microbe populations between the left and right auditory canal?

    There isn’t. They’re just mirror images of each other because they’re on the opposite side of the body from each other…

    <removes tongue from cheek>


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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