Bacterial communities reside in very different ecological niches on and within the human host, such as those associated with the alimentary tract. The human gastrointestinal tract is populated with as many as 100 trillion bacterial cells, whose collective genome likely reflects the co-evolution between the microbial community and its host. Recent progress has highlighted the intriguing diversity of these bacterial populations and their important contributions to human physiology. Thus, a thorough understanding of the autochthonous component of the intestinal microbiota is expected to provide crucial information not only on how to develop therapies for various gastrointestinal diseases but also on how to choose the next generation of probiotic bacteria as part of novel functional foods. Recently, novel culture-independent approaches such as metagenomics-based techniques were shown to be crucially important for the exploration of the biodiversity of the human intestinal microbiota.