Magnetic Misfit Bacteria

Posted on January 25, 2006  Comments (0)

Magnetic Misfits: South Seeking Bacteria in the Northern Hemisphere

Magnetotactic bacteria contain chains of magnetic iron minerals that allow them to orient in the earth’s magnetic field much like living compass needles. These bacteria have long been observed to respond to high oxygen levels in the lab by swimming towards geomagnetic north in the Northern Hemisphere and geomagnetic south in the Southern Hemisphere. In either hemisphere, this behavior would also lead them downward in the water column into areas with their preferred oxygen level. But an unusual bacterium in New England has been found doing just the opposite, a magnetic misfit of sorts.

Simmons, a graduate student in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography and Applied Ocean Science and Engineering, received some additional support for her study from a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship. Edwards is her advisor.

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