Thursday, December 11, 2008

Little Bitty Critters, Lots of Them!

This is a photo of a "Red Tide" wave breaking on the beach at Carlsbad California. The Tide water is red, But the action of the wave excites the biolumenecent factors of the Eukaryotes.
more dinofagellate eukaryotes

There are little bitty critters all around us, in fact there are so many little bitty critters that they outweigh all of us big critters.

When you think of "biomass" you think of trees and grasses, elephants and giraffes-es. Some people think of ants and termites, some even thing of amoebas and euglenas, but few think of bacteria’s and viruses, they are just too small to count right? Right…
Take a deep breath and hold you nose while we explore “micro-critter world”.

All the world's a phage: viruses that eat bacteria abound—and surprise - bacteriophages

"Smaller than bacteria, some of them look like microscopic spacecraft. You can find them almost anywhere' under a rosebush or miles out to sea. These strange entities are bacteriophages, viruses that prey upon bacteria, and there's a staggering number of them. A pinch of soil or drop of seawater, for example, contains many millions of bacteriophages.
"They're nature's most successful experiment," says Marisa Pedulla of the University of Pittsburgh. "They outnumber all the bacteria, all the humans, whales, trees, et cetera, put together."

Remember those MRSA's? (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus)

Well check what the soviets do with virus bactereia eating microphages. I hope Kim Sallaway reads this. He almost lost his Camera Shutter finger to a MRSA.

"In the 1920s and '30s, with diseases like dysentery and cholera running rampant, the discovery of bacteriophages was hailed as a breakthrough. Bacteriophages are viruses found virtually everywhere—from soil to seawater to your intestines—that kill specific, infection-causing bacteria. In the United States, the drug company Eli Lilly marketed phages for abscesses and respiratory infections. (Sinclair Lewis' Pulitzer-winning Arrowsmith is about a doctor who uses phages to prevent a diphtheria epidemic.) But by the 1940s, American scientists stopped working with phages for treatment because they no longer had reason to. Penicillin, discovered by the Scottish bacteriologist Alexander Fleming in 1928, had become widely available thanks to synthetic production and zapped infections without the expertise needed for finicky phages."

Rather that trying to kill the bacteria with a antibiotic, they simply give the bacteria the micro-world version of the "Bird-Flu". by giving the MRSA a viral infection that kills the bacteria, but not the patient. Tidy, right?

Bacteria under ice

A white mat of bacteria with clams living in the top was found on the icy sea floor 2,800 feet down, on the bottom of the sea under the Larsen B Ice Shelf. The ice shelf was 600 feet thick before it broke up in 2002. The water is some of the coldest on earth. There is no possibility of food or light reaching into those depths under the ice shelf. Yet there is bacteria and clams living there. There is no explanation what this under ice bacteria and clams are living on.

“You do not expect to find a lot of food down there falling from the sea surface, because of the ice shelf," Although this has changed since the collapse of the ice shelf, the sea-bottom life still seems to be independent of usual oceanic food sources.”

Bacteria 1,000 feet beneath the seafloor.

In a scientific "time Sharing arrangement" scientist used a drill hole made by other scientist to test for bacteria in the porous basalt rock beneath the sea floor.

"CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new study has discovered an abundance of microbial life deep beneath the ocean floor in ancient basalt that forms part of the Earth's crust, in research that once more expands the realm of seemingly hostile or remote environments in which living organisms can apparently thrive."

"Until now we knew practically nothing about the biology of areas such as this, but we found about the same amount of bacteria in that water as you might find in surrounding seawater in the ocean. It was abundant."

Viruses kill deep-sea bacteria

The deep sea covers two thirds of the Earth’s surface. Bacteria are the dominant life form in the sediments of the sea floor. “There are 100 million to 100 billion bacteria per gram of sediment,” Professor Antonio Dell’Anno of the Polytechnic University of Marche in Italy, one of the authors of the paper, said. “This adds up to a huge amount of carbon on the global scale.”

The scientists found that viruses are responsible for almost all bacterial mortality in deep sea sediments, and that at depths beyond 1,000 metres viral mortality is close to 100%. The viruses effectively split the bacteria open, releasing their cell contents into the environment where the nutrients are quickly re-used by other, as yet uninfected, bacteria. Professor Dell’Anno describes the process as a kind of 'deep sea cannibalism' that effectively accelerates the carbon cycle.

Thirty percent of feces is critters.

There is a story about the young lady that invited her boyfriend to the family farm for lunch. After lunch the young ladies father pushed back from the table, excused himself and said, “Sorry, but I gotta’ go spread some manure on the pasture”.

Mortified by her fathers lack of class by saying manure at the dinner table, the young lady cornered her mother in the kitchen and said, “Can’t you teach father to say “Fertilizer” instead of “manure”?

The mother said, “Just never you mind young lady, it took me ten years to get him to stop calling it shit”.

Quoted from Encyclopedia Britannica
"also spelled faeces, also called excrement solid bodily waste discharged from the large intestine through the anus during defecation. Feces are normally removed from the body one or two times a day. About 100 to 250 grams (3 to 8 ounces) of feces are excreted by a human adult daily.Normally, feces are made up of 75 percent water and 25 percent solid matter. About 30 percent of the solid matter consists of dead bacteria; about 30 percent consists of indigestible food matter such as cellulose; 10 to 20 percent is cholesterol and other fats; 10 to 20 percent is inorganic substances such as calcium phosphate and iron phosphate; and 2 to 3 percent is protein. Cell debris shed from the mucous membrane of the intestinal tract also passes in the waste material, as do bile pigments (bilirubin) and dead leukocytes (white blood cells). The brown color of feces is due to the action of bacteria on bilirubin, which is the end product of the breakdown of hemoglobin (red blood cells). The odour of feces is caused by the chemicals indole, skatole, hydrogen sulfide, and mercaptans, which are produced by bacterial action.Many diseases and disorders can affect bowel function and produce abnormalities in the feces. Constipation is characterized by infrequent evacuations and the production of excessively hard and dry feces, while diarrhea results in frequent defecation and excessively soft, watery feces. Bleeding in the stomach or intestines may result in the passage of blood with the stool, which appears dark red, tarry, or black. Fatty or greasy stools usually indicate pancreatic or small-intestine afflictions. Typhoid, cholera, and amoebic dysentery are among diseases spread by the contamination of food with the feces of infected persons."

Now for the "biggie".

Huge hidden biomass lives deep beneath the seafloor.

I'll highlight the details here for you. Scientists are pretty smart people, but sadly they can't speak in a language that anybody can understand. So, just like Lawyers, somebody has to tell normal people what they said in simple terms. I'm not normal, but I'm fairly simple, so I'll tell you what they said.

They said:
Just a little over a mile beneath the seafloor, where the temperature is about 212 degrees Fahrenheit, they have found life where they least expected to find it. Furthermore, the rocks beneath the sea are teeming with life.

A scientist by the name of John Parkes has discovered a organism called a “Prokaryote”. Prokaryotes are an organism that often has only one cell. Parkes says, “Where cells living so far beneath the sea floor could have come from remains a mystery. They may have been gradually buried in sediment as millions of years passed by, and adapted to the increasing temperatures and pressure” or “that they were sucked deep into the mud from the sea water above. Hydrothermal vents pulse hot water out of the seabed and into the ocean. This creates a vacuum in the sediment, which draws fresh sea water into the marine aquifer.”

About 60% of the cells Parkes and his team found were alive. They are related to organisms found in deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Depending on the depth, between one in 20 and one in 10 of the cells were dividing, which is the normal way prokaryotes reproduce.

Parkes goes on to say: “It is important to understand the way the cells got down there, because that has implications for their age. The cells are not very active and according to Parkes they have very few predators. "We find very few viruses, for example, down there," he says. "At the surface, if you don't divide you get eaten. But if there are no predators, the pressure to reproduce decreases and you can spend more energy on repairing your damaged molecules."

Now, wouldn’t it be nice if our cells could repair themselves instead of worrying about getting eaten. After reading a little bit more I began to understand the implications of “No Predators”. Some of the cells that Parks is studying are up to 120 million years old.

Even more fantastic than the depth and temperature that these cells grow, or I should say, live, is the amount of them. “the rocks beneath the oceans could be home to the largest population of prokaryotes on Earth, and account for one tenth of all living carbon. He estimates the combined undersea biomass could be equivalent to that of all the plants on Earth.”

Let me repeat for the unscientific people; The biomass beneath the seabed is as much as the surface vegetation of the Earth!

And, that's just the critters beneath the seafloor.


ben said...

Ernie... I'm going to have to digest all this for awhile. Is this the eventual outcome of Bullshistory? Actually, this is really fascinating. The whole prokaryote thing is new to me and I was a biology major. Uh, now that I think of it, that was 50 years ago next year. Yikes!

Ernie Branscomb said...

Well Ben, There's critters in your digestive tract to help you with that.

There's other "yotes" also. Bilions, and Billions, and Billions of then.

Rose said...

Jus' don' let 'em pull up an Andromeda Strain.

USelaine said...

It's like doing genealogy, and discovering a first cousin, 1 trillion and 8 times removed (the sub-crust branch of the family). Good stuff, Ernie.

spyrock said...

sounds like the unified field theory to me. where does you stop and i begin. i saw the web one time in the middle of the night on my way to the bathroom. it was like one of those m c escher drawings in minute detail. either going infinitely small or infinitely big this web was connecting us all. you know, the golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Ernie Branscomb said...

With me, all things loop together. Like you, I wonder if the infinitely small could loop into the infinitely large. The only thing that I understand is that some things are simply incomprehensible to the human mind.

That very thought, leaves me as an agnostic in many things. By that I mean, that some ideas are just too large or to small for my mind to grasp. I don’t believe that there is any great micromanager in the heavens as the universal answer. God is an easy way out of not having a real explanation. Some people can’t deal with the thought that they will never know the real answers, so they fill in with the God thing.

Like walking a trail in the woods, that ends back where it starts, I find the trip to be infinitely interesting. Each rock that I pass with Indian Writing, each critter, and each tree, and each person that I meet becomes my total focus, and receives my great interest.

If there is a God, it is found in mans desire to wonder.

olmanriver said...

well said ernie, i have been a wonder-fool all my life... donovan had a lyric about seeing the allness in the smallness that certainly fits this thread. great info.
it is my understanding that a human body has ten times more bacteria than human cells. 'splains alot, maybe.

Fred said...

That first picture, with the phosphorescent waves, I saw once before. It was a few miles up the coast from Carlsbad, just north of Laguna Beach.

This was back in the seventies, a few months before I moved up here. We were partying down at the Irvine Company private beach and I noticed the whitewater from the waves seemed to be glowing.

I went down to the water's edge to see if I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. Then, looking down at the sand, I could see little sparkles. Looking closer I realized there were fish that were making the sparkles.

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of smelt like fish, wiggling in the sand. First time I'd ever seen GRUNION, although I'd seen a film about them in school.

I went and got my friends and we collected maybe a couple shopping bags full of them.

Probably a mistake taking all those grunion, never mind the legalities of whatever the limit was. They're ok to eat, but they get old fast.

Funny thing was, we went back the next night and got even more of them. Sure was a magical night with the glowing surf and sparkling sand, though.

Ernie Branscomb said...

35 or 40 years ago we used to go to Usal beach and catch night fish. As the waves would break the light would flash off of them. It looked like the light of the moon reflecting off of the waves but if you watched real hard in the dim light you could see that the light was coming from deep inside the wave. Beautiful stuff!

Ernie Branscomb said...


A little Kitty told me you have a new rock in your life. Were you impressed?

My E-mail address is up in the top left corner of my blog front page.

Ernie Branscomb said...

I fixed the link to the red tide and the eukaryotes.

Anonymous said...

A natural extension of this kind of info would be going into the importance of keeping your intestinal flora happy...probiotics for health!
Or the wisdom of cultivating microbial + life in your soil via biodynamic farming, or compost tea making, etc. As two people cued me into this site a few days before your is a link for a good book from a great site on soil health:

Anonymous said...

It has been my experience that farting in fluorescent waters is a beautiful thing to do! Worth a few giggles too.

olmanriver said...

And I thought human love was tricky...on the sex life of bacteria:
"You can have sex, with males possessing a sexual apparatus for transferring genetic information to receptive females. However, since you are both going 30 mph it is difficult to find each other. Furthermore, if you are male, nature gave you a severe problem. Every time you mate with a female, she turns into a male. In bacteria, "maleness" is an infective venereal disease... Also, at fairly high frequencies, spontaneous mutations cause you to turn into a female."
...." Humans think this is their era. A more truthful statement would be that we all live in the age of bacteria."

Prokaryotes, Eukaryotes,and Viruses

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thanks Old Man River. I made your URL into a LINK, Click here.

Also here is a link for the soil bacteria from anon Soil Food Web

olmanriver said...

A trip to the gut zoo:
"Scientists who study bacteria in human feces (how would you like to have that job?) estimate that there are somewhere between three hundred and one thousand different kinds of bacteria inhabiting the gut.1 Of these, approximately thirty or forty different species make up the bulk (ninety percent) of the inhabitants. Researchers believe that these thirty or forty species are the most important to gut health. These include Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus acidophilus, among others.

If you could count all the bacteria in your gut, you would find that they outnumber the total number of cells in your body by a large number. The cells that make up your body (heart, liver, bone, and brain cells) add up to around 1013 cells (10,000,000,000,000). The bacteria in your gut outnumber the cells that make up you ten to one."
Thanks for the previous links Ernie...feel free to let people copy and paste this one, as it is a product site. Or, you can.

beachcomber said...

Well, here's my take on red tide. Mark and I discovered it once in our dating years. Eventually it became our version of the "submarine races" but, initially, it was as you described. We were .... let's just say "parked" at Sunset Beach near Santa Cruz. The waves were breaking phosphorescent. We stomped down the sand and it made glow-in-the-dark prints that would quickly fade - no, really. It reminded me of the invisible monster on Johnny Quest...*sigh*. Drawing through the sand with a stick left a sparkling trail. We often went back to watch the red tide...long after it faded. Ahhhh, good times.

Ernie Branscomb said...

I made Old Man Rivers “Gut Bug Site” into a link.

He thinks that he jinxed the thread by making that post. I think that he worries too much. He sent the folowing to me as a personal e-mail, but I found it interesting enough to move onto this blog. I hope that he doesn’t mind.

“isn't it amazing how the world can get smaller and bigger at the same time!
i hope i didnt sully the thread by returning to the tummycritters subject... i did hold back from mentioning that we have 3-5 pounds of bacteria in us.
now my mind goes off on the topic of bacteria health/human health. i learned on one site that a baby isnt born (assuming the hospital doesnt contaminate em) with bacteria inside but gets their complement of good and bad bacteria from mom. one of those bacteria, streptococcus mutans is the buggie that is the badguy for making cavities. in finland, where there is less tooth decay, where dental science is decades ahead of our ADA...they have the poorer mothers chew xylitol gum which will selectively kill the s. mutans so it is not passed on to the children with all her kissing, etc. the xylitol comes mostly from the birch tree as i recall, tho there are synthesized versions from other plant sources.
and that is a short version.
i saved all those articles for my library, thanks for taking up the critters...i can see why that was hollering inside while you patiently finshed out the tree series.
take care,”

Old Man River

Bunny said...

THANKS FOR bringing back a great memory from about 1956. My family was camping on the beach in So Cal, I can't remember which one. It was red tide and we played in the bright glowing ocean waves for hours. Glittery trails were left by dragging our toes, splashing created explosions of brightness beyond belief. I have never seen it since and indeed forgot that I always wanted to see it again before I die. The odds are getting slimmer all the time. Maybe Youtube has some good videos.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Bunny, just go to the ocean on a moonless night in the summer. To a minor degree you will see the same thing here. We used to watch the waves at night at Usal Beach, but you can see the same thing at Ten Mile beach by Fort Bragg.

Ernie Branscomb said...

They do have videos!
This will get you started

olmanriver said...

Thank goodness I didn't fess up in that email to posting the comment about how pretty those "bacterial gas emissions" look in the fluorescent waters of Thailand!

Can kangaroo farts save the planet?
"Thanks to special bacteria in their stomachs, kangaroo flatulence contains no methane and scientists want to transfer that bacteria to cattle and sheep who emit large quantities of the harmful gas.",23599,22879806-29277,00.html
Although the percentage of greenhouse gases from 'animals emissions' is up there with car and truck exhaust, you dont hear folks bashing meat-eaters like they do SUV owners.
Thanks for the permission to continue adding colorful and off-colorful comments.

Robin Shelley said...

Anybody ever seen the "flash of green"?
(No, I haven't... but I want to!)

omr said...

Taxing cow farts? Seems the EPA may be thinking about it(pardon my premature hysteria):
"The New York Farm Bureau assigned a price tag to the cost of greenhouse gas regulation by the EPA in a release last month.
“The tax for dairy cows could be $175 per cow, and $87.50 per head of beef cattle. The tax on hogs would upwards of $20 per hog,” the release said. “Any operation with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle or 200 hogs would have to obtain permits.”

Kate Galbraith, correspondent for The New York Times, noted on the Times’ “Green Inc.” blog that such a “proposal is far from being enacted” and that the “hysteria may be premature."