While most of us worry about the ripeness of our bananas, Marcos Voutsinos has been preoccupied with something else: the banana freckle. Despite its innocuous name, banana freckle is actually a fungal disease caused by the fungus Phyllosticta cavendishii and characterized by “freckles” of fungus on the banana fruit, leaves, and stems. The fruiting bodies of P. cavendishii can spread up to 1 km during the tropical monsoonal weather making this microorganism a serious concern for the $600 million Australian banana industry. (more…)
Most animals depend on their gut microbes for digestive help. The caterpillar, however, seems to lack resident gut microbes all together.
By characterizing the microbial composition across 124 species of caterpillars from North America and Costa Rica, Tobin Hammer and colleagues at the University of Colorado Boulder found that caterpillars do not have microbial friends living in their gut. Fecal material from the caterpillars contained several orders of magnitude fewer microbes compared to other organisms. (more…)
It is commonly believed that bacteria are microscopic – stealthy and hidden from the naked eye. But the bacterium, Epulopiscium fishelsoni, is a microbial behemoth you can see with the human eye alone. First discovered in the intestines of a brown surgeonfish in the Red Sea in 1985, this giant bacterium was first classified as a protist because of its large size. In 1993, rRNA sequencing revealed that this organism is actually a bacterium.
Epulopiscium varies between 10- to 20-fold in length and has a volume more than 2,000 times that of a typical bacterium. They range from 200 - 700 microns in length, about the size of a grain of table salt. But being big does have its downsides. (more…)
Growing up, Jesus Romo never thought he would become a microbiologist. “I actually wanted to be a paleontologist as a kid and [my parents] always bought me books about dinosaurs and dinosaur toys,” he says. Now Jesus is a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at San Antonio studying fungus in the lab. When not in the lab, Jesus enjoys investigating fungi of another kind: the mushroom.
Originally from Coahuila, Mexico, Jesus immigrated to the U.S. with his parents when he was 10 years old. After a year of frustration and not wanting to go to school because he did not know the language, Jesus quickly became fluent in English. He attended the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) as an undergraduate while working six nights a week. Though he did well in his courses, he had no idea undergraduate research opportunities existed. He took a microbiology laboratory course in his last semester and the instructor thought he would make a good teacher and recommended he look into graduate school (more…)
When the sun vanishes behind the moon, living organisms behave as if twilight is here. Crickets start to chirp, flowers close up, and cows head to the barn. In this year’s highly anticipated solar eclipse, microbes will also fly high in the sky on giant balloons as part of a citizen science project called the Eclipse Ballooning Project.
The Eclipse Ballooning Project harnesses the scientific curiosities of 55 teams across universities, high schools, and ballooning groups. These citizen scientists will capture footage along the path of totality across the Unites States. This will be the first time videos and images of a total eclipse will be documented live from near space. (more…)