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Do bacteria rule the Earth? Without really trying?


Yes, yes, it’s Friday night. Philip Cunningham offers us some notes on the subject. We rather suspect he agrees. 😉

A single sand grain harbours up to 100,000 microorganisms from thousands of species.” Your visit to the beach will never be the same. The sand you sit on, build sand castles with and bury yourself in is crawling with germs. But not to worry; they’re good germs. They’re doing you and the world a favor by helping keep the ocean clean and keep earth’s nitrogen and carbon cycles going….

You travel to Antarctica. Now are you germ-free? No;… Surprisingly, the same kinds of bacteria live at both poles…. Bacteria Rule the Earth – David F. Coppedge, December 14, 2017

Information Storage — In the Cloud(s): Excerpt: This could change your cloud viewing forever. Up there in those drifting puffs of white, tens of thousands of complex organisms live in cloud cities! There are a hundred to a thousand eukaryotic cells per milliliter, and a thousand to ten thousand bacteria and archaea. These numbers vastly exceed cell counts from previous observations. “Clouds are extremely rich and diverse mosaics of multiple sources ecosystems,” the researchers say…. Evolution News & Views, August 23, 2017

Bugs in the Atmosphere: Significant Microorganism Populations Found in Middle and Upper Troposphere: Excerpt: In what is believed to be the first study of its kind, researchers used genomic techniques to document the presence of significant numbers of living microorganisms — principally bacteria — in the middle and upper troposphere, that section of the atmosphere approximately four to six miles above Earth’s surface.
Whether the microorganisms routinely inhabit this portion of the atmosphere — perhaps living on carbon compounds also found there — or whether they were simply lofted there from Earth’s surface isn’t yet known. ScienceDaily, Jan. 28, 2013

Collecting Census Data On Microbial Denizens of Hardened Rocks
Excerpt: What they’re finding is that, even miles deep and halfway across the globe, many of these (microbial)communities are somehow quite similar.
The results… suggest that these communities may be connected… he said. “we’re seeing the same types of organisms everywhere we look.”
Schrenk leads a team,, studying samples from deep underground in California, Finland and from mine shafts in South Africa. The scientists also collect microbes from the deepest hydrothermal vents in the Caribbean Ocean. “It’s easy to understand how birds or fish might be similar oceans apart,” Schrenk said. “But it challenges the imagination to think of nearly identical microbes 16,000 kilometers apart from each other in the cracks of hard rock at extreme depths, pressures and temperatures.”

“Integrating this region into existing models of global biogeochemistry and gaining better understanding into how deep rock-hosted organisms contribute or mitigate greenhouse gases (and toxic metals) could help us unlock puzzles surrounding modern-day Earth, ancient Earth…
ScienceDaily Dec. 9, 2013

Ocean’s most abundant organisms have clear daily cycles:

Excerpt: Imagine the open ocean as a microbial megacity, teeming with life too small to be seen. In every drop of water, hundreds of types of bacteria can be found. Now scientists have discovered that communities of these ocean microbes have their own daily cycles — not unlike the residents of a bustling city who tend to wake up, commute, work, and eat at the same times….

“I like to say they are singing in harmony,” said Edward F. DeLong, professor of Oceanography at University of Hawaii…

What scientists saw was intriguing: different species of bacteria expressing different types of genes in different, but consistent, cycles — turning on, for example, the type of restorative genes needed to rebuild their solar-collecting powers at night, then ramping up with different gene activity to build new proteins during the day. “The regularity and timing of individual microbial activities is somewhat like a new shift of hourly workers punching in and out of the clock, day after day,” DeLong said….

“There are some fundamental laws to be learned about how organisms interact, to make the system work better as a whole and be more efficient,” DeLong said. ScienceDaily, July 10, 2014

Oceanic microbes behave in a synchrony across ocean basins: Excerpt: Researchers have found that microbial communities in different regions of the Pacific Ocean displayed strikingly similar daily rhythms in their metabolism despite inhabiting extremely different habitats — the nutrient-rich waters off California and the nutrient-poor waters north of Hawai’i. Furthermore, in each location, the dominant photoautotrophs appear to initiate a cascade effect wherein the other major groups of microbes perform their metabolic activities in a coordinated and predictable way….

The bacterial groups common to both ecosystems displayed the same transcriptional patterns and daily rhythms — as if each group is performing its prescribed role at a precise time each and every day, even though these communities are separated by thousands of miles.
“Our work suggests that these microbial communities broadly behave in a similar manner across entire ocean basins and that specific biological interactions between these groups are widespread in nature,”…

“Surprisingly, however, our work shows that these extremely different ecosystems exhibit very similar diel cycles, driven largely by sunlight and interspecies microbial interactions,” said Aylward, “This suggests that different microbial communities across the Pacific Ocean, and likely waters across the entire planet, behave in much more orderly ways than has previously been supposed,” ScienceDaily, March 16, 2015

Doubting Darwin: Algae Findings Surprise Scientists: Excerpt: One of Charles Darwin’s hypotheses posits that closely related species will compete for food and other resources more strongly with one another than with distant relatives, because they occupy similar ecological niches. Most biologists long have accepted this to be true.

Thus, three researchers were more than a little shaken to find that their experiments on fresh water green algae failed to support Darwin’s theory — at least in one case.

“It was completely unexpected,” says Bradley Cardinale, associate professor in the University of Michigan’s school of natural resources & environment. “When we saw the results, we said ‘this can’t be.”‘ We sat there banging our heads against the wall. Darwin’s hypothesis has been with us for so long, how can it not be right?”

The researchers …— were so uncomfortable with their results that they spent the next several months trying to disprove their own work. But the research held up….

The scientists did not set out to disprove Darwin, but, in fact, to learn more about the genetic and ecological uniqueness of fresh water green algae so they could provide conservationists with useful data for decision-making. “We went into it assuming Darwin to be right, and expecting to come up with some real numbers for conservationists,” Cardinale says. “When we started coming up with numbers that showed he wasn’t right, we were completely baffled.”…

Darwin “was obsessed with competition,” Cardinale says. “He assumed the whole world was composed of species competing with each other, but we found that one-third of the species of algae we studied actually like each other. They don’t grow as well unless you put them with another species. It may be that nature has a heck of a lot more mutualisms than we ever expected.

“… Maybe Darwin’s presumption that the world may be dominated by competition is wrong.” – April 28, 2014

The Air You’re Breathing? A Diatom Made That: Excerpt: Diatoms are tiny — five to 10 of them could fit on the head of a pin — but these single-celled algae play an immense role in keeping the planet’s ecosystem working. They’re important mediators of carbon and oxygen cycles, an integral component of marine food webs and the principal cyclers of silica, which constitutes about one-quarter of the Earth’s crust.

Diatoms incorporate that silica into their beautifully ornamented glass cell walls, whose intricate patterns have captivated researchers for centuries. Diatom species are distinguished largely on the basis of their cell-wall features and, increasingly, differences in their DNA sequences. No one really knows how many different diatoms are out there, but conservative estimates suggest around 100,000 to 200,000 species, making them among the most species-rich lineages of eukaryote. LiveScience – June 10, 2014 Diatoms – photo gallery

Machines packed in exquisite geometrical structures play a major role in cleaning the air and regulating carbon for the entire planet. … It contains these molecular factories (carboxysomes) loaded with Rubisco and carbonic anhydrase, working day and night to cleanse our atmosphere and regulate global carbon. Evolution News & Views

Breathe deeply.


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