Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mmm, algal nommy noms

"Good heterotrophic* bacteria always eat their dark, leafy, algal exudates*!" 

*Heterotroph- eats organic carbon, breathes CO2. Just like you and me.
**Stuff that algae gush out of their cells, like carbs. Promotes the growth of bacteria. If it's good enough for them, it's good enough for us! Bring on the algae cakes!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Like a Microbe, Sun-touched for the very first time

After years of planning and weeks of hard work on the frozen *Antarctic Lake Vida, hooman scientists finally drill through the ice, letting the brilliant sunlight touch the surface of the lake, for the first time in eons...

... much to the shock of the Mini-bacterial Family, that had been living in isolation and darkness**. 

*Real hoomans doing some drilling in Lake Vida and finding incredible tiny bacteria living at -13 Celsius (that's 8.6 Fahrenheit!) http://www.rdmag.com/news/2012/11/scientists-find-ancient-microbes-ice-sealed-antarctic-lake
**Course then the bacteria would have lost any light-sensing capabilities but this is a dramatization. Work with me.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Laser Power

In his feverish excitement to be discovered first by the human rover, Curiosity, Northop D. Martian threw caution to the wind!

"Now I know why natural selection never selected our kind..."

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Martian microbe message

Having heard of the successful launch of the Earthling mission, Mars Science Lab*, Marty the Martian** waits patiently on the red planet for Curiosity*** to discover him.

*MSL- http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/
** Marty the Martian is a relative of the Giant Plush Microbes (TM) predicted microbe found on the ALH 84001 meteorite.
*** Curiosity- the rover on MSL that will gently land on Mars, includes 10 instruments and is much larger than Spirit or Opportunity, the twin rovers currently on Mars. http://www.universetoday.com/91317/curiosity-mars-rover-launch-gallery-photos-and-videos/

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dance with Death

Fact: there are 10 viral (bacteriophage*) particles for every bacterial particle in the ocean. And it's more than that in certain micro-environments. Not all 10 are necessarily the same kind of virus either, as hosts and parasites are often specific to each other and many different types of bacteria exist in the oceans.

*Bacteriophage literally means "to devour bacteria" (think of the word "phagocytosis"- same root). They are a class of viruses that attack bacteria and break open the cells for their own [amusement and] replication. Thus, all bacterial cells are in a dance with death!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sick Microbe I: The Phage

When Joey fell ill with The Phage*, the other bacteria were worried, with good reason! One sudden movement, one stressful moment, and his body could explode releasing millions of infectious phage particles... a danger to them all.

*Phages - aka: bacteriophages, viruses that infect bacteria.
Yes, bacteria need sick days, too, you self-centered anthropomorph.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The rare shall rule the oceans*

Hans and his band of ragged rare bacteria waited patiently for the currents of change. Once the conditions were right, they would ... eat and multiply!

There are abundant and rare groups of bacteria in seawater. A recent paper from our lab found that some rare groups in a community act as "seeds"; when the conditions are favorable to them, they become more abundant. Here is the link to the not-super-sciencey version http://www.udel.edu/udaily/2012/jul/bacteria-ocean-072011.html **, ***

* Until conditions change again, heh.
** No, mystery is not solved. There are few absolute truths in biology, sorry.
*** There are not thousands of bacteria in a teaspoon of seawater, it's more like 3 million.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

"The Ice"

Every winter, James and Joslyn had to endure six months of separation* as Joslyn, being a cryomicrobe, was entombed in sea ice**.

*Human crew of Antarctic stations are often on "the ice" for months at a time, away from loved ones and family. I bet microbes feel the same since a lot of the same species of microbes found in marine waters are also found in sea ice.

**This isn't a scientifically accurate depiction of sea ice. Now shoo, go home.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Displaced Microbes II: Aeolian Dust

Powerful sandstorms in the Sahara desert, Africa, can carry minerals, bacteria, and other "stuff" across the Atlantic. Not only do these massive storms seed the Atlantic Ocean with debris and minerals (and possibly bacteria), but dust particles from these storms have been found in America and Antarctica! Wind, the next best thing to flying bacteria.

Here is a better image of the power in these storms. Now imagine bacteria on those dust particles! Oooh...

Friday, April 15, 2011


Most people view microbes like this:

Microbiologists view microbes from a different perspective.

Prokaryotes are diverse and lovely. They can do all kinds of crazy things like live in acid, survive vacuums, live in ice, break down toxic compounds, and clean up our messes. Sure, they can wipe out entire species, too. But they also have the power to make cheese and digest cheese. I say they deserve R-E-S-P-E-C-T!