A2: Microbes in the News

Article: 60,000-year-old microbes found in Mexican mine: NASA scientist

Link: PHYS, https://phys.org/news/2017-02-year-old-microbes-mexican-nasa-scientist.html

Summary: The research team from NASA found some microbes which is 60,000-year-old in the Naica mine in Mexico and revived them. Penelope Boston of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute said that in that mine, they found some crystals and inside of that, they found lots of microbes and viruses and they were alive, but they were locked by the crystal. Naika is the mine region and inside the mine, temperature is so high, so those area is extreme environment. When the researchers conducted research, they wore a spacesuit and an ice bag. Then, those microbes and viruses were picked up. They are really different from other well known microbes in terms of genome. It’s 10% difference between them and some microbes which has the closest genome sequence and this difference is like between humans and mushrooms. Those microbes lay dormant in the layer of minerals. Penelope said they adapted to their harsh environment and this discovery is just an one example how organisms in the earth are strong.

Connections: It’s relate to microbial ubiquitous and some extrememophiles.

Critical analysis: This mine is really hot and dark and nutrient are limited, so for almost all of organisms, it’s absolutely extreme environment. However, some microbes and viruses can exist in those environment. I was surprised when I read this article, but I am wondering why genome became different from others due to living inside crystals? This article said they are different like human to mushrooms. However, human and mushrooms are completely different from the shape, complexity, habitat and foods etc and they are microbes, but genome is different at 10%, so I’m confused.

Question: How to survive in the crystal even they can’t move? Why they are totally different from other microbes in terms of genome?

A2: Lack of oxygen not a showstopper for life

ack of oxygen not a showstopper for life April 17, 2017.
Charles Q. Choi

Summary: Scientists sampled organisms from 15 different hot pools to see how many different chemosynthetic communities are thriving in the springs. The team focused on the oxidants present in communities, and worked on nailing down what type of bacteria are in those communities. They found that microaerophiles dominated mainly planktonic communities. This information helps provide a look at what kind of life may have been present in early earth, and if this life may be possibly survive on other planets.

Connections: In class we have talked about how microbes may have lived in an anoxic environment, and how they evolved with earth’s evolving environment. Eric Collin’s lecture gave an insight on how and why microbes should be able to survive on other planets.

Critical analysis: I like this article because I find it fascinating that so much science can be going on in one of the worlds most natural wonders. People visit Yellowstone all year round just to see these hot springs, and it is so interesting to think that these pools of water can offer so much insight on our environments future and past. I find this article to be accurate because we have learned a lot about how and why archaea that can survive in harsh environments, and how that can be an insight into life on other planets.

Question: This team focused on a small amount of microbial communities and were able to come up with plenty of information. Do you think it is even possible to find, analyze, and classify all of the microbes that could be living in just one hot springs?

A2: Microbes in the News- Using tropical microbes to improve the environment

Article Title: Using tropical microbes to improve the environment

Source: phys.org

Date: 4-12-17

Link:  https://phys.org/news/2017-04-tropical-microbes-environment.html

Summary: Researchers have been investigating ways to use the rich and diverse microbiome of the tropic region to help advance farming and agriculture, often finding ways to use them to protect against disease or increase efficiency in some way. For example, the scientists cultured the bacterium found in the guts of tropical fish, which can possibly be probiotics for commercially grown fish by inducing it into their guts through their food. This would protect them from the same diseases that the bacterium prevent in the tropical fish, enhancing survivability and resistance to diseases that could otherwise wreak havoc on the fish. A similar method is also used to protect banana crops, using the Streptomyces bacteria as an antifungal and antibacterial in the soil.

Connections: This is similar to what we have studied about both oil spills and microbiomes, as they are using microbes to reduce man made chemical use and are introducing these bacteria to the microbiomes of the fish and the plants.

Critical Analysis: I thought it was interesting to see how microbes can be used to protect against disease and how introducing them to the guts of the fish is almost like a vaccine for the fish. Although the article is about a developing way of helping agriculture and farming, there is a good amount of depth and explanation to the story to explain what is going on to the reader. It provides what may otherwise be a little technical to read for the general public into an interesting read that explains what it is saying well.

Question: In hat other ways could this be applied? Could it be used in place of certain vaccinations in humans? Even if it is just temporary, it would be interesting to see if this could be used for things like traveling. Because different people, especially of different cultures, have different microbiomes, could this method make it easier to travel and tolerate things such as drinking water and foods in different countries?

Previously Undiscovered Carbon Cycle in the Poles

Title: Polar glaciers may be home to previously undiscovered carbon cycle (April 12, 2017)

Link:  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170412105910.htm via the National Science Foundation

Summary:  New research on the carbon cycle of glacial ecosystems has revealed a new source of overlooked  carbon. Previously, it was thought carbon in glaciers was the result of organic matter from ancient ecosystems or more recently trapped carbon, such as soot.

However, a new study revealed that in “supraglacial” stream environments, streams that flow on glaciers, most of the carbon was produced by photosynthesizing microorganisms.

While glacial streams may seem like a small ecosystem, the writers of the paper state polar glacial streams “represent an important component of the global carbon cycle.” Approximately 11 percent of the Earth is covered in ice, and therefore valid area for supraglacial systems to exist. These streams are some of the largest glacial ecosystems, but until now, their contribution to the global carbon cycle had not been considered. As the global climate warms, and these supraglacial systems grow, the microbial output of carbon might also increase.

At this point, more research will be necessary to determine the exact extent of these microbial systems and their impacts on the global climate.

Connections:  We have looked at different carbon cycles and how the global environment is affected by fluctuations in the system. This is a slightly different ecosystem than what is typically discussed, but truly demonstrates the versatility of microbial life.

Critical Analysis:  Personally, I think it is odd that nobody has looked into glacial stream systems for microbial life until now. We know microbes can exist happily in space, so what would stop them from happily existing in polar streams? Or maybe we did know there were microbes, but not that they photosyntesized.

This outlines what I think is a great shortcoming of this article. While it explains the findings and their relevance well, it does not give much background information, either about the environment, prior discoveries, or even the carbon cycle.

I believe in this case, this article was written to grab the attention of the reader and give them a small fragment of a fact to make them interested in reading the entire paper, or at least that’s what it did for me. It left me feeling like I didn’t have the whole picture.

Questions:  How else do microbes contribute in polar ecosystems? Are there other organisms in these supraglacial ecosystems?