Microbe of the Month — March 2017 — Amazing Microbial Facts Edition!

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Rhodospirillium

Greetings fellow [redacted] from all of us here at Microbe of the Month HQ in sunny Peoria, Indiana! Our dedicated staff of low paid wage slaves and assorted hangers-ons are ready once again to thrill and amaze with the finest edutational infotainment chock full of all the crazy facts, half-truths, and sciency thing-a-ma-bobs you have come to expect from Microbe of the Month®.

Before we dive into this Month’s feature topic a few updates from the staff. It has been a time a great change here at MOTMTM headquarters. As you know our founder the legendary Howard Ven Trusseldorf III, bequeathed his legacy of greatness (and chronic alcoholism) to every future president of Microbe of the Month. Unfortunately our most recent leader (President Tirbolt Heggenstein, esq.) has decided to leave us for greener pastures. Apparently he thinks Microbe of the Month is “behind the times” and has accepted a position with some flashy silicon valley start-up, Microbe of the Week. He actually told me that “the millennial generation want their microbial information more than once a month. Microbio is the new IT thing and a once a month fix just doesn’t cut it anymore.” I say “What’s next, microbe of the day, 24/7 microbe? I mean come on, you might as well try and sell a 24/7 news channel, or even better 24/7 sports channel. Who in their right mind would think that’s a good idea?” So good luck with that ex-President Tirbol, I’ll see you on the unemployment line. Anyway quite a number of key personnel left with Mr. Heggenstein so we are experiencing some serious staff shortages at the moment. Microbe of the month however soldiers on.

We are going to change things up a bit this month. Instead of featuring a particular microorganism or group of microbes we have decided to present a series of truly amazing, mind-bending factoids about our microbial brothers and sisters. Enjoy!

1. There are an estimated 4–6 x 10³⁰ prokaryotes on, below, and above planet earth and about an order of magnitude more viruses.

2. There are an estimated 10¹⁶ prokaryotes/tonne of soil. Compared to 10¹¹ stars in the milky way.

3. 1 g of soil yields an average of 10⁷ unique “species”. The number of cells in just 1 tsp. exceeds the entire current human population of the continent of Africa.

4. More than 50% of the biomass of earth is prokaryotic even though prokaryotic cells are just 1/10 the diameter of eukaryotic cells (the cells of plants and animals), and 1/1000th the volume.

5. In the oceans they make up more than 90% of the biomass and the number (~10²⁸) is about 100 million times more than the estimated number of stars in the universe.

*Facts borrowed (stolen) from a very good recent book, Philosophy of Microbiology. 2014. Maureen O’Malley. Cambridge University Press. Pgs. 3–5. — Yes, you read that correctly, Philosophy of Microbiology is the title of the book, and it is absolutely amazing! My two favorite topics have been brought together at last. Some dreams do come true.

We did not have our standard trivia challenge last month but it is back on for March. As usual the winner(s) will be the first to send me the most accurate, comprehensive, and well researched answer. In the event of a tie I may choose to select multiple winners or give preference to the first to send me their answer. Once again the winner(s) will receive the title of honorary Ph.D. for a week with their name prominently displayed on the world famous [redacted] whiteboard® If that isn’t prize enough they will also receive a $50 gift certificate to one of my favorite web-sites http://www.thinkgeek.com/. You read that correctly, fifty big ones. Five-0 shemolians. A half c-note. All answers are due by midnight March 31st. The stakes are high this month my friends so with that in mind here it is….

One of the five facts listed above contains an error, or at the very least, a significant stretching of the truth. Tell me which one it is and why and you are this month’s winner. Easy enough right? Have at it and good luck!

Microbe of the Month is off to France (the home of Louis Pasteur) for the next week and a half. Au Revoir!

Daniel DeMarco, Ph.D.

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