Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bacterial 'ropes' tie down shifting Southwest

Date:
November 17, 2009
Source:
Arizona State University
Summary:
Researchers have discovered that several species of microbes, at least one found prominently in the deserts of the Southwest, have evolved the trait of rope-building to lasso shifting soil substrates.

Sandy desert soil from the Colorado Plateau is colonized by pioneering Microcoleus vaginatus (left). This is a microscopic view of ropes built in culture by Microcoleus chthonoplastes from a marine intertidal mat (right).
Credit: Arizona State University

Researchers from Arizona State University have discovered that several species of microbes (cyanobacteria), at least one found prominently in the deserts of the Southwest, have evolved the trait of rope-building to lasso shifting soil substrates.

These tiny filamentous cyanobacteria are typically found in the environment as multicellular single strands or threads. Though known as pioneers in the biostabilization of soils, scientists have long puzzled over the factors that control and promote the twisting of some species' individual threads into thick cords sometimes inches in length.

Ferran Garcia-Pichel and Martin Wojciechowski, researchers in ASU's School of Life Sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, examined genetic markers of rope-makers, relating them to shear stress, soil particle size and friction velocity (linked to erosion) to develop an understanding about the relationship between bacterial behavior, evolutionary fitness and environmental effectors.

The results of their study, published Nov. 17 in the journal Public Library of Science (PLoS) ONE, revealed that rope-building cyanobacteria, typically found in fine, sandy desert soils, marine subtidal stromatolites and coastal sand flats, are able, because of their larger size, to hog-tie sand grains and resist eroding wind and fluid at velocities that would typically wash away their thread-like relatives.

"While forming thick ropes seems to have apparent disadvantages, such as limiting access to light or nutrients, bundling-up actually turns out to be, literally, like throwing your neighbor a life-line," Garcia-Pichel says.

Wojciechowski adds: "These microbes rope-building attributes have added to their success as the true Western pioneers."

Garcia-Pichel believes that it was environmental effectors that led to the selection of genetic traits to promote rope-building. Phylogenetic analyses performed by the researchers have further shown that the evolution of the trait occurred separately in three different genera; an example of convergent evolution, rather than a tie to a single common rope-building ancestor.

In the desert, the initial stabilization of topsoil by rope-builders promotes colonization by a multitude of other microbes. From their interwoven relationships arise complex communities known as "biological soil crusts," important ecological components in the fertility and sustainability of arid ecosystems.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Arizona State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ferran Garcia-Pichel, Martin F. Wojciechowski. The Evolution of a Capacity to Build Supra-Cellular Ropes Enabled Filamentous Cyanobacteria to Colonize Highly Erodible Substrates. PLoS ONE, 2009; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007801

Cite This Page:

Arizona State University. "Bacterial 'ropes' tie down shifting Southwest." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 November 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091116203140.htm>.
Arizona State University. (2009, November 17). Bacterial 'ropes' tie down shifting Southwest. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091116203140.htm
Arizona State University. "Bacterial 'ropes' tie down shifting Southwest." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091116203140.htm (accessed April 24, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US

Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) A disease that has killed more than six million cave-dwelling bats in the United States is on the move and wildlife biologists are worried. White Nose Syndrome, discovered in New York in 2006, has now spread to 25 states. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blood From World's Oldest Woman Suggests Life Limit

Blood From World's Oldest Woman Suggests Life Limit

Newsy (Apr. 24, 2014) Scientists say for the extremely elderly, their stem cells might reach a state of exhaustion. This could limit one's life span. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Kangaroo Rescued from Swimming Pool

Raw: Kangaroo Rescued from Swimming Pool

AP (Apr. 24, 2014) A kangaroo was saved from drowning in a backyard suburban swimming pool in Australia's Victoria state on Thursday. Australian broadcaster Channel 7 showed footage of the kangaroo struggling to get out of the pool. (April 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Marijuana Use Lead To Serious Heart Problems?

Could Marijuana Use Lead To Serious Heart Problems?

Newsy (Apr. 24, 2014) A new study says marijuana use could lead to serious heart-related complications. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins