Posted on January 18, 2006  Comments (5)

photo of T4 bacteriophage

Photo: T4 bacteriophage, middle, is a virus that invades bacterial cells. Courtesy of the MicrobeLibrary.org

The MicrobeWorld web site includes an introduction to microbes – Microbes: what they are and what they do:

Microbes are single-cell organisms so tiny that millions can fit into the eye of a needle.

They are the oldest form of life on earth. Microbe fossils date back more than 3.5 billion years to a time when the Earth was covered with oceans that regularly reached the boiling point, hundreds of millions of years before dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Microbes types:

These bacteria look-alikes are living fossils that are providing clues to the earliest forms of life on Earth.

Often dismissed as “germs” that cause illness, bacteria help us do an amazing array of useful things, like make vitamins, break down some types of garbage, and maintain our atmosphere.

From a single-celled yeast to a 3.5-mile-wide mushroom, fungi do everything from helping to bake bread to recycling to decomposing waste.

Plant-like algae produce much of the oxygen we breathe; animal-like protozoa (including the famous amoeba) help maintain the balance of microbial life.

Unable to do much of anything on their own, viruses go into host cells to reproduce, often wreaking havoc and causing disease. Their ability to move genetic information from one cell to another makes them useful for cloning DNA and could provide a way to deliver gene therapy.

5 Responses to “Microbes”

  1. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » What is an Extremophile?
    November 18th, 2006 @ 8:55 am

    The site includes interesting photos and details on all sorts of extremophiles: Anaerobe (don’t require oxygen) – Endolith (live inside rocks) – Thermophile (enjoy over 40 °C)…

  2. CuriousCat: Secret Life of Microbes
    March 13th, 2008 @ 6:39 pm

    “Evidence that viruses–which are known to be ten times more abundant than even microbes–serve as gene banks for ecosystems.”

  3. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Microbes Beneath the Sea Floor
    July 22nd, 2008 @ 8:50 am

    “Tiny microbes beneath the sea floor, distinct from life on the Earth’s surface, may account for one-tenth of the Earth’s living biomass…”

  4. Curious Cat Science Blog » Save the Microbes, Save the World
    November 24th, 2008 @ 8:09 pm

    Webcast of panel discussion on microbes.

  5. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Bacteriophages: The Most Common Life-Like Form on Earth
    November 26th, 2009 @ 11:08 am

    […] webcast of Bacteriophage T4 – types of microbes – What are Viruses? – Amazing Science: Retroviruses – Using Bacteria to Carry […]

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