New to Science: February 2015

Each month, the Society for General Microbiology publishes the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, which details newly discovered species of bacteria, fungi and protists. Here are a few of the new species that have been discovered and the places they’ve been found. The full papers are available to journal subscribers, but the abstracts are free to read.

It is the Society for General Microbiology’s 70th birthday this month – it was formally inaugurated on 16 February 1945 and Sir Alexander Fleming became its first President. Such anniversaries are always a time for reflection on the past and its lessons and challenges.

Microbiologists from South Africa and Italy undertook a similar journey into the past, providing New to Science with the most unusual microbe discovery location we have seen so far. The researchers were studying the damage caused by microbial communities in the catacombs of St Callixtus in Rome, which were founded in the very earliest years of Christianity and once housed the tombs of many popes from the first millennium AD. Here, the researchers isolated Kribbella italica from a biofilm growing on the walls of one of the tombs.

Elsewhere, microbiologists dealt with a similarly ancient subject matter. In China’s mountainous Xinjiang province, Arcticibacter eurypsychrophilus was discovered in an ice core drilled from the Muji Glacier. Ice cores contain ice deposited in the glacier a long time ago, although the scientists do not mention the age of the ice where the bacterium was identified.

Other cold-loving, or psychrophilic, bacteria discovered this month include Pseudomonas yamanorum, isolated on Isla de los Estados just off the southern tip of South America, and Carnobacterium inhibens subsp. gilichinskyi, which was discovered on the banks of the Kolyma river in eastern Siberia. Chinese researchers, meanwhile, isolated Deinococcus Antarcticus, a pink-pigmented species resistant to UV radiation, from the remote Grove Mountains of East Antarctica.

A group of Iranian, Turkish and Italian scientists discovered Mycobacterium celeriflavum in clinical samples of lung tissue from a hospital in Ahvaz in Iran. This bacterium is scotochromogenic, meaning that it produces pigments in the absence of light. These pigments darken when the bacterium is exposed to light – in the case of M. celeriflavum, they turn yellow. Conversely, Perspicuibacter marinus is a semi-transparent species that was isolated from surface seawater near the island of Shikoku in Japan.

Other microbes have less exciting light-related features, but they were found in more hard-to-reach places. For example, Danish scientists isolated Bisgaardia miroungae from the mouth of a northern elephant seal, which lives on the west coast of North America. Dysgonomonas termitidis was discovered in the gut of the subterranean, wood-feeding termite Reticulitermes speratus, while Corynebacterium atrinae was found to live in the gut of a pen shell (Atrina pectinata) off the coast of Korea.

We close this month’s New to Science with an homage to microbiologists’ ability to make lemonade when life hands them lemons – or, in this case, spoiled fruit juice. Japanese researchers isolated the warmth- and acid-loving bacterium Alicyclobacillus dauci from a batch of spoiled fruit and vegetable juice.

These are just a few of the new species described this month; you can see the full list on the IJSEM website. We’ll be back again next month with a host of new ones  look out for us then!

Jon Fuhrmann

Image credit: user 3dom on Flickr under CC BY-NC 2.0.
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