Bacteria

Where They Live

Our Challenge: Name at least three places microbes live. Can you think of any places that microbes might not live?

case3_a_upMicrobiologists have found microbes living just about everywhere: in the soil, water and air; in animals, plants, rocks and even us!

Your body is home to trillions of microbes. Run your tongue over your teeth—you're licking thousands of microbes that normally live on your teeth, like those pictured here. Millions of them live on your tongue, too. A large part of "you" (that is, the mass of your body) is actually something else: bacteria, viruses and fungi. Isn't that a weird thought?

Pick up a fistful of garden soil and you're holding hundreds if not thousands of different kinds of microbe in your hand. A single teaspoon of that soil contains over 1,000,000,000 bacteria, about 120,000 fungi and 25,000 algae.

Microbes have been around for billions of years because they are able to adapt to the ever-changing environment. They can find a home anywhere and some of them live in places where we once thought NOTHING could survive.

For example, scientists have discovered microbes living in the boiling waters of hot springs in Yellowstone National Park. These microbes "eat" hydrogen gas and sulfur and "breathe" hydrogen sulfide (a gas that smells like rotten eggs).

case3_bOther heat-loving microbes live in volcanic cracks miles under the ocean surface where there is no light and the water is a brew of poisonous arsenic, sulfur and other nasty chemicals. The little blobs shown in this photo are bacteria that live on mussel shells around a volcanic vent called the Galapagos Vent.

Other microbes live in the permanently frozen ice of Antarctica.

Microbes have been found living inside the stones that make up the walls of old cathedrals in Europe.

case3_cSome scientists even believe there is the possibility bacteria may have once lived on Mars. This photograph taken through a microscope shows what some scientists believe may be the fossils of tiny bacteria in a rock that formed on Mars about 4.5 billion years ago. The rock crash-landed on Earth as a meteorite thousands of years ago.

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