Chimps may be known more for their poop-flinging antics than their hygiene habits - but if you're keeping score on tidiness, you might not want to count the apes out just yet.
Scientists say that, when it comes to sleeping, humans actually doze in dirtier beds than chimpanzees.
Researchers at North Carolina State University looked at what kinds of microbes were found in the sleeping areas of both humans and chimps. They looked at how many of those microbes came from the sleeper's own body — such as from traces of feces, saliva, or skin - and how many came from the environment itself.
"We know that human homes are effectively their own ecosystems, and human beds often contain a subset of the taxa — or types — of organisms found in the home," Megan Thoemmes, lead author of the paper, published in the journal Royal Society Open Science, said in a news release. "For example, about 35 percent of bacteria in human beds stem from our own bodies, including fecal, oral and skin bacteria."
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The researchers wanted to know how that percentage of germ y buildup compared to that of chimpanzee beds, which the apes build anew every night in the trees.
The scientists took samples from 41 chimpanzee beds and even used a vacuum to gather up any tiny creatures crawling around the nests, according to the news release.
“We expected to see a lot of ectoparasites and a lot of fecal bacteria, because there’s been a lot of evidence showing that fecal bacteria builds up in the fur of chimpanzees,” Thoemmes told National Geographic.
But the scientists were taken aback by the results.
"We found almost none of those microbes in the chimpanzee nests, which was a little surprising," Thoemmes wrote. She wrote that the scientists also expected to find lots of little parasites like lice and ticks, but found very few.
"In contrast, the arthropod communities in human homes are diverse, often including hundreds of species, tens of which are specialized on life indoors," the study said, according to The Independent.
In total, only about 3.5 percent of bacteria in chimp beds was from the apes' own bodies, compared to 35 percent from humans, National Geographic reported.
That's not to say the chimp beds weren't crawling with bacteria — it's just that the bacteria were naturally part of the environment, not carried there and deposited by the chimps night after night as happens in human beds, Thoemmes explained.
"This work really highlights the role that man-made structures play in shaping the ecosystems of our immediate environment," Thoemmes said in a news release. "In some ways, our attempts to create a clean environment for ourselves may actually make our surroundings less ideal."