Seeds transfer their microbes to the next generation

Scientists have been pondering if the microbiome of plants is due to nature or nurture. Research at Stockholm University, published in Environmental Microbiology, showed that oak acorns contain a large diversity of microbes, ...

Biodiesel made from discarded cardboard boxes

Automobile exhaust emitted by fossil-fuel-based vehicles, especially those operating on diesel, is known to be a major source of fine dust and greenhouse gases. Using biodiesel instead of diesel is an effective way of coping ...

Abrupt permafrost thaw alters microbial structure and function

Permafrost thaw could emit substantial carbon (C) into the atmosphere, and possibly trigger a positive feedback to climate warming. As the engine of biogeochemical cycling, soil microorganisms exert a critical role in mediating ...

Microbes feeding on methane release arsenic into groundwater

Arsenic is a toxin now widely present in rivers and groundwater in countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam. It is released by the activity of microorganisms. Yet for a long time it was unclear what the microorganisms ate ...

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Microorganism

A microorganism (from the Greek: μικρός, mikrós, "small" and ὀργανισμός, organismós, "organism"; also spelled micro organism or micro-organism) or microbe is an organism that is microscopic (usually too small to be seen by the naked human eye). The study of microorganisms is called microbiology, a subject that began with Anton van Leeuwenhoek's discovery of microorganisms in 1675, using a microscope of his own design.

Microorganisms are very diverse; they include bacteria, fungi, archaea, and protists; microscopic plants (called green algae); and animals such as plankton, the planarian and the amoeba. Some microbiologists also include viruses, but others consider these as non-living. Most microorganisms are unicellular (single-celled), but this is not universal, since some multicellular organisms are microscopic, while some unicellular protists and bacteria, like Thiomargarita namibiensis, are macroscopic and visible to the naked eye.

Microorganisms live in all parts of the biosphere where there is liquid water, including soil, hot springs, on the ocean floor, high in the atmosphere and deep inside rocks within the Earth's crust. Microorganisms are critical to nutrient recycling in ecosystems as they act as decomposers. As some microorganisms can fix nitrogen, they are a vital part of the nitrogen cycle, and recent studies indicate that airborne microbes may play a role in precipitation and weather.

Microbes are also exploited by people in biotechnology, both in traditional food and beverage preparation, and in modern technologies based on genetic engineering. However, pathogenic microbes are harmful, since they invade and grow within other organisms, causing diseases that kill millions of people, other animals, and plants.

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