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Rob Dunn

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The Top 10 Places in Your House Filled With Microbes and Other "Monsters"

Posted: 10/05/11 12:30 PM ET

It is the American dream to own a home of one's own. Imagine, then, discovering that your newly purchased palace is filled with denizens and squatters. This is what greeted my wife and I when we bought our house in Raleigh, North Carolina. I have since been obsessed with these "others," and even wrote a book about them. But don't worry about me. I like the company. You should too, or you should like some of them, anyway. All of our homes are filled with other species, and they always will be, so you might as well get to know the places they live. Here are the ten habitats in your home most filled with other species, many of them scarcely known:

To learn more about the how the Wild Life around us influences our health and well being, visit my website or read my new book, The Wild Life of Our Bodies.

Water, Water, Everywhere, All of It Alive
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Many of the species in our houses get in through our pipes. Rats sometimes come up the sewer, but bacteria always come out of the tap. Like little Ghandi's, these bacteria have forsaken the high life to persist humbly off the nutrition in water and air. Lest this turn you to bottled water, bottled water has its own strand of bacteria too. Whatever these species do to us, they do it in every sip. As water travels through our houses (and bodies), it meets different life forms, including tropical romantics like species of Thermus bacteria, found everywhere from the hot springs of Yellowstone to your water heater. These species are harmless, but rapidly evolving. The species most often found on water heaters, Thermus X-1, has so far been found nowhere else. Darwin found the Galapagos to be the place where the processes of evolution were most clear -- for microbiologists a tank and some rusty pipes will do.
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