Bacteria Cell Structure
They are as unrelated to human beings as living things can be, but bacteria are essential to human life and life on planet Earth. Although they are notorious for their role in causing human diseases, from tooth decay to the Black Plague, there are beneficial species that are essential to good health. For example, one species that lives symbiotically in the large intestine manufactures vitamin K, an essential blood clotting factor. Other species are beneficial indirectly. Bacteria give yogurt its tangy flavor and sourdough bread its sour taste. They make it possible for ruminant animals (cows, sheep, goats) to digest plant cellulose and for some plants, (soybean, peas, alfalfa) to convert nitrogen to a more usable form. Bacteria are prokaryotes, lacking well-defined nuclei and membrane-bound organelles, and with chromosomes composed of a single closed DNA circle. They come in many shapes and sizes, from minute spheres, cylinders and spiral threads, to flagellated rods, and filamentous chains. They are found practically everywhere on Earth and live in some of the most unusual and seemingly inhospitable places. Evidence shows that bacteria were in existence as long as 3.5 billion years ago, making them one of the oldest living organisms on the Earth. Even older than the bacteria are the archeans (also called archaebacteria) tiny prokaryotic organisms that live only in extreme environments: boiling water, super-salty pools, sulfur-spewing volcanic vents, acidic water, and deep in the Antarctic ice. Many scientists now believe that the archaea and bacteria developed separately from a common ancestor nearly four billion years ago. Millions of years later, the ancestors of today's eukaryotes split off from the archaea. Despite the superficial resemblance to bacteria, biochemically and genetically, the archea are as different from bacteria as bacteria are from humans. In the late 1600s, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek became the first to study bacteria...
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