Oregon wants to make brewer's yeast its official state microbe. Also known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the unicellular organism is perhaps best known for its use in brewing beer. This, of course, begs the question: what would your official state microbe be?
Between fevers, congestion and diarrhea, there are numerous ways that microbes can make us feel sick. But just how do microorganisms cause these symptoms?
Prymnesium parvum is a single-celled, toxic algae species that wreaks havoc throughout U.S. waters. The toxin is designed to wipe out their competition for sunlight and nutrients... but for some reason, some of the algae don't bother producing toxins.
That's the intriguing new hypothesis put forward to explain the Permian mass extinction, which wiped out more than 90% of all Earth's species 251 million years ago. And we even know which microbe is responsible for this omnicidal annihilation.
The unimaginably arid conditions of South America's Atacama Desert have mad it the perfect scientific stand-in for Mars. So in a place that is quite literally almost alien, it makes sense we'd find microbes as strange as these.
Exogenesis is the theory that the building blocks for life came from elsewhere in the universe. The trouble is it doesn't explain where those building blocks came from in the first place. But new calculations suggest one intriguing source: Earth.
2.5 billion years ago, the Sun was basically invisible from the Earth's surface. Microbes in the oceans pumped methane into the atmosphere, creating a giant cloud of smog that covered the entire planet. Yes, the whole world turned into LA.
For the last twenty million years, Chile's Atacama Desert has been the driest, most inhospitable place on Earth. But deep below the surface of this unimaginably arid world, microbes are flourishing without even oxygen or sunlight. Meet the extremest extremophiles.
In late 2010, NASA scientists announced the discovery of microbes in California's Mono Lake that used arsenic instead of phosphorus in their DNA. The study quickly came under intense criticism — and now we may be about to refute it entirely.
There's no way to be absolutely certain, but we're pretty sure that no germs have ever survived the grueling journey from Earth to Mars. But the latest rover to explore the Red Planet might just take along some microscopic colonists.
We're still trying to figure out how to properly harness the power of hydrogen as a clean energy source — and now we might be able to pick up some unexpected pointers from some bizarre symbiotic bacteria found at the ocean depths.
Life on Earth might actually be Martian — or Europan, or Titanese. Or maybe our ancestors came from outside our solar system, flung up from a distant planet (perhaps Caprica?) billions of years ago and migrated to Earth. It all sounds far-fetched, but new research suggests microbes can survive an asteroid impact big…