CU Boulder researchers find microbes in 100-year old snail guts

June 29, 2022 |

In Colorado, on a drizzly day in July 1920, a Colorado scientist named Junius Henderson was hiking around the Dakota Hogback, a sandstone ridge north of Boulder. There, he spotted a group of Rocky Mountain snails (Oreohelix strigosa) oozing across the ground. Henderson scooped up the mollusks and brought them back to his lab at what is now called the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, carefully preserving his finds. 

Now, a century later, a team of ecologists from the CU museum have returned to those snails, obtaining surprising insights into something that Henderson couldn’t have predicted at the time: the diverse communities of bacteria and other microbes, known collectively as the microbiome, that flourished inside the mollusks’ guts.

For the first time ever, researchers have used modern, DNA-screening tools to identify the microbes that once lived in the guts of animals that have been dead for a century.

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Category: Research

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