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Rocks and their microbes: a coevolutionary relationship

06/17/2014
Miles beneath our feet, Earth’s rocky crust may seem a cold, dead place. On closer inspection it’s anything but. Microbes have been making a home on and in rocks since…well, since the beginnings of life, some 3.5 billion years ago. The traditional view of rock-dwelling microbes is one of sparse, energy-starved ...

From farm to table: Insects as a conduit for antibiotic resistant bacteria

06/03/2014
The love affair between industrial agriculture and the antibiotic industry has come into an uncomfortable spotlight of late. In 2011, 7.7 million pounds of antibiotics were sold to treat sick people in the United States. This compares with a whopping 29.9 million pounds of antibiotics fed to cattle, pigs and ...

Microbe, enzyme or mineral? A riddle in the soil.

05/21/2014
When you look at soil, you probably see dirt. When I look at soil, I see billions of microorganisms, crawling atop one another, consuming the dead in a feasting frenzy that stops for nothing save a deep freeze. I see microbes and their enzymes, the digestive juices that break down, ...

When infection is a good thing: sulfur-eating bacteria enlist viruses to help acquire energy

05/06/2014
Life is no cake walk at the ocean floor, where carbon is scarce and light nonexistent. At least near deep ocean vents, mineral-rich water bubbles up from magma beneath the crust, providing both heat and a source of energy. In these alien environments, lithotrophs- bacteria that eat minerals instead ...

Who cheats and who eats? An evolutionary conundrum.

04/21/2014
Say what you will about our other vices, human beings did not invent cheating. Microbes have been doing it for billions of years. You see, for microbes, cheating can sometimes be an evolutionary advantage. And this can cause it to get out of hand really quickly. Click source link above to ...

Amazon Mycorenewal Project launches campaign to clean up world's largest oil spill using microbes

04/09/2014
Deep in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon lies one of the worst environmental disasters in human history. Over the past several decades, oil companies have discharged more than 18 billion gallons of petroleum contaminated wastewater into the Sucumbíos region in northeastern Ecuador. The contamination, which spans a geographic region ...

30,000 feet up, these bacteria aren't afraid of heights

04/03/2014
From ocean floors to office desks, bacteria coat nearly every inch of the Earth. Scientists have recently discovered bacteria are present high above the Earth, as well. Ten kilometers up, to be exact, in a region of our atmosphere known as the upper troposphere. In a place where freezing temperatures, ...

Resurrecting ancient microbes to understand evolution

03/27/2014
When you hear the word “resurrection”, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Religious miracles? Zombie viruses? The end of the world? Whatever your mental association, I’m willing to bet it’s not “an emerging scientific discipline." Well, it just so happens a growing community of microbial ecologists are developing a ...

Deep but not dead: continental crust bacteria make a global impact

03/26/2014
Microbes in the deep biosphere - ocean floor sediments, subterranean aquifers, the continental crust - often get the short end of the research stick. Reproducing every few thousand years and living in perpetual starvation, life far beneath the surface beats to a different drum. The strangeness of life down deep ...

Arctic bacteria gene swap to detoxify mercury

03/24/2014
On the list of substances you really don’t want to mess with, elemental mercury is pretty high up. Inhalation or absorption of the volatile metal can quickly lead to irreversible poisoning. Unfortunately, Hg is also a hallmark of industrial society.....Mercury-resistant bacteria carry a collection of Hg-detoxifying genes, including the enzyme ...

Fossil viruses preserved in hot spring bacteria

03/20/2014
Fossilized microbes have provided scientists many clues about origins of life. By comparison, little attention is given to viruses in the fossil record. Although technically non-living, there is no question these tiny packets of protein-sheathed DNA have shaped the evolution of most life on earth, including humans. But can viral ...

Frozen bacteria repair their DNA at -15ºC

03/19/2014
Bacteria encased in ice can be resuscitated after thousands, perhaps even millions of years. How these hardy bugs manage to survive deep freeze is something of a mystery. If nothing else, the low levels of radiation hitting Earth’s surface should cause any ice-bound bacterium’s DNA to break apart over ...

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