What is stranger, the fact that hopanoids are possibly the most abundant organic compounds on the planet or that, despite being of microbial origin, most microbiologists have barely heard of them? Just as inexplicable is that a PubMed search for “hopanoid” brings up a paltry total of 102 entries (“DNA” brings up 1,443,241 items!) To drive the point home, there are...
In their paper written in 1930, two US Department of Agriculture scientists, L. A. Rogers and E. O. Whittier, probably described the first continuous culture device for bacteria. It had several of the features of what later became known as the chemostat: a growth chamber, a way to deliver fresh nutrient at a set rate, a constant level device (a side tube) to remove spent medium at the same rate as that of addition of fresh medium, and a sampling port.
The August 2016 issue of Environmental Microbiology is a treasure trove of articles on symbiotic relationships. I happen to have a soft spot for the subject (am I symbiotic with symbioses?), so this issue is a handsome gift. I will comment on just a few of the articles, chosen with some effort from all this wealth.
by Jamie Henzy
Scientists at one time shared the title of "natural philosophers", and largely spoke the same language. As their techniques grew in sophistication, they set as their goal nothing less than the building of a giant tower of Knowledge of all Nature. When God saw this blatant display of hubris, she struck their tongues so that their speech could no longer be understood to one another, and they scattered far and wide...
E. coli may eventually get dethroned from its lofty position as the best studied, best known, and perhaps best exploited organism on this planet. The upstart is Vibrio natriegens, a marsh-dwelling gram-negative bacterium that grows 1.4 – 3.9 times faster than E. coli in the laboratory, depending on the medium (it also depends on which strain of the latter you're talking about).
by Amy Vollmer
Teaching microbiology is a terrific opportunity not just to introduce students to the world of microbes but also to help them to become critical thinkers and life-long learners. The challenges for us teachers are numerous: textbooks are getting thicker, yet the length of the semester is not increasing. How do we balance a sense of history with current discoveries?