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New bug eats sulfates, makes two kinds of magnet

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A bacterium recently discovered near Death Valley has some very unusual properties according to a report published in the December 23 issue of Science magazine. While some ‘bugs’ are like migratory birds, making tiny magnets that they use to guide their navigation, this is the first bacterium to be found that makes two different kinds of magnetic particles.


“A Cultured Greigite-Producing Magnetotactic Bacterium in a Novel Group of Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria,” describes the first successful attempt to grow the bacterium in the laboratory, opening the door to understanding how it works, and potentially harnessing its tools for manufacturing or environmental cleanup.

Led by University of Nevada Las Vegas microbiologist Dennis Bazylinski, the team includes Ames Laboratory scientist Tanya Prozorov, who performed characterization studies of the cultured bacterium. Bazylinski, formerly an Iowa State University researcher, and his postdoctoral associate, Christopher Lefèvre found the new bacterium, named BW-1, in a basin named Badwater on the edge of Death Valley National Park.

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