Sulfur Bacteria

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Bacteria are often maligned as the causes of human and animal disease (like this one, Leptospira, which causes serious disease in livestock). However, certain bacteria, the actinomycetes, produce antibiotics such as streptomycin and nocardicin; others live symbiotically in the guts of animals (including humans) or elsewhere in their bodies, or on the roots of certain plants, converting nitrogen into a usable form. Bacteria put the tang in yogurt and the sour in sourdough bread; bacteria help to break down dead organic matter; bacteria make up the base of the food web in many environments. Bacteria are of such immense importance because of their extreme flexibility, capacity for rapid growth and reproduction, and great age - the oldest fossils known, nearly 3.5 billion years old, are fossils of bacteria-like organisms. Bacteria grow in a wide variety of habitats and conditions. When most people think of bacteria, they think of disease-causing organisms, like the Streptococcus bacteria growing in culture in this picture, which were isolated from a man with strep throat. While pathogenic bacteria are notorious for such diseases as cholera, tuberculosis, and gonorrhea, such disease-causing species are a comparatively tiny fraction of the bacteria as a whole. Bacteria are so widespread that it is possible only to make the most general statements about their life history and ecology. They may be found on the tops of mountains, the bottom of the deepest oceans, in the guts of animals, and even in the frozen rocks and ice of Antarctica. One feature that has enabled them to spread so far, and last so long is their ability to go dormant for an extended period. Bacteria have a wide range of envronmental and nutritive requirements. Most bacteria may be placed into one of three groups based on their response to gaseous oxygen. Aerobic bacteria thrive in the presence of oxygen and require it for their continued growth and existence. Other bacteria are anaerobic, and...
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