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Chapter 13 : Extraordinary Ecology: an Amazing Diversity of Life Styles

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Extraordinary Ecology: an Amazing Diversity of Life Styles, Page 1 of 2

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Abstract:

Ecology is the branch of biology that deals with the relationships of organisms to one another and to their surroundings. In comparison with other kinds of living creatures, microbes are extraordinary with respect to the great diversity of ecological niches in which different species can grow. In other words, in the microbial world a particularly wide range of chemical and physical conditions can be tolerated and exploited. Some microbes, however, have the capacity to grow in solutions that contain very high concentrations of salts or other small molecules. These are known as osmophiles or halophiles (halos is Greek for “salt”). Certain microbial species called acidophiles are well adapted to life in acidic environments. Magnetotactic bacteria behave as bar magnets because each cell contains either one or two chains of magnetite particles. Further studies on magnetotactic bacteria may help to explain the purpose of magnetite throughout the animal kingdom. Looking for microbes in deep subsurface locales is usually approached by examining cores obtained by drilling from the surface. Recent reports indicate the presence of microbes in the pores of rocks that are deep below the Earth's surface (as far as 400 meters below ground). The symbiotic N2 fixation system of legumes is one example of microbes living in close association with higher organisms. Chemical "communication" between different species of microbes is an inherent feature of the carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur cycles. Life in a consortium is very economical and also greatly reduces dependence on environmental supplies of crucial nutrients.

Citation: Gest H. 2003. Extraordinary Ecology: an Amazing Diversity of Life Styles, p 75-89. In Microbes. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817855.ch13
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Figures

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Figure 16

*Translation: “Oxygen content is 21%, only a trace of CO2, and no methane—there can't be any life forms on this planet!”

Citation: Gest H. 2003. Extraordinary Ecology: an Amazing Diversity of Life Styles, p 75-89. In Microbes. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817855.ch13
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Image of Figure 17
Figure 17

An ancient map of the Dead Sea, showing destruction of the “sinful cities of the Plain.”

Citation: Gest H. 2003. Extraordinary Ecology: an Amazing Diversity of Life Styles, p 75-89. In Microbes. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817855.ch13
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Image of Figure 18
Figure 18

Electron micrograph of the magnetotactic bacterium Aquaspirillum magnetotacticum. The cell contains magnetite particles lined up in a chainlike array.

Citation: Gest H. 2003. Extraordinary Ecology: an Amazing Diversity of Life Styles, p 75-89. In Microbes. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817855.ch13
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Image of Figure 19
Figure 19

Electron micrograph of Chlorochromatium, a consortium of two different kinds of bacteria that cross-feed each other. The bacterium in the center is an anaerobic heterotroph that converts sulfate to H2S. The attached peripheral cells are photosynthetic bacteria (see Chapter 15) that convert H2S to sulfate, required by the other partner.

Citation: Gest H. 2003. Extraordinary Ecology: an Amazing Diversity of Life Styles, p 75-89. In Microbes. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817855.ch13
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Image of Figure 20
Figure 20

Fruiting body of the myxobacterium Stigmatella aurantiaca. Note the multiple “sporangioles” that house the spores, situated on top of a stalk. This fruiting body was found on a decaying tree branch on the campus of Indiana University, Bloomington.

Citation: Gest H. 2003. Extraordinary Ecology: an Amazing Diversity of Life Styles, p 75-89. In Microbes. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817855.ch13
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References

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Tables

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Table 7

Relative acidity of various liquids

Citation: Gest H. 2003. Extraordinary Ecology: an Amazing Diversity of Life Styles, p 75-89. In Microbes. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817855.ch13

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