Meet a Microbe

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A Bacterium You Can See With the Naked Eye

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…)

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Meet a microbe: Deinococcus radiodurans

Meet Deinococcus radiodurans, one of the world’s toughest bacterium. It’s an extremophile and one of the most radiation-resistant organisms known on Earth. This hardy little bacterium can survive over a thousand times the amount of radiation that would kill a human. Its tolerance to many harsh conditions has earned itself the name “Conan the Bacterium,” after the movie Conan the Barbarian. D. radiodurans is a spherical bacterium and four individual cells are typically stuck together forming a square shaped cluster. Aside from radiation resistance, D. radiodurans is also resistant to ultraviolet light and desiccation. (more…)

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Eaten alive from the inside: predatory bacteria kill pathogenic bacteria from the inside out

When it comes to predators, we naturally think of large, agile, and powerful animals on the prowl. But we often don’t think about the most abundant predators on our planet, predators of the microscopic world. In the depths of the microbial universe, predatory bacteria (those that feast upon other bacteria) have emerged. These bacteria are now ubiquitous in terrestrial and marine environments. Predatory bacteria penetrate the outer membrane of bacterial prey and ingest their prized nutrients, killing the prey. (more…)

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Vibrio natriegens as the new E. coli?

Anyone who has dabbled into molecular biology knows that Escherichia coli has been the go-to model organism for quite some time. As an organism that is easy to grow and easy to genetically manipulate in the lab, E. coli has become one of the most commonly used microorganisms in labs that study a variety of biological systems. It has been used to inform the behavior of other bacteria (which may be harder to grow or more difficult to work with). Outside of strictly microbiology research, E. coli has been used to produce many biomolecules by inserting genes needed to produce these molecules into the bacterium. (more…)

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Microbe of the month: Nanopusillus acidilobi, an archaeon found in Yellowstone National Park

"Life has evolved to thrive in environments that are extreme only by our limited human standards: in the boiling battery acid of Yellowstone hot springs, in the cracks of permanent ice sheets, in the cooling waters of nuclear reactors, miles beneath the Earth's crust, in pure salt crystals, and inside the rocks of the dry valleys of Antarctica." -Jill Tarter, astronomer

Yellowstone National Park (YNP) is well known for its geothermal features and diverse ecosystems. With features such as hot spring, geysers, canyons and forests, it's no wonder that the biodiversity (microbial and not) at YNP is enormous. (more…)