Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Every grain of sand is a metropolis for bacteria

04.12.2017

A single sand grain harbours up to 100,000 microorganisms from thousands of species.

Just imagine, you are sitting on a sunny beach, contentedly letting the warm sand trickle through your fingers. Millions of sand grains. What you probably can't imagine: at the same time, billions upon billions of bacteria are also trickling through your fingers.


View of a sand grain under a fluorescence microscope: The green spots are stained bacteria, which have mainly colonized depressions on the grain.

Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology/CC-SA BY 4.0


Hard to believe what lives here: Sand grains under the binocular microscope.

Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology

Between 10,000 and 100,000 microorganisms live on each single grain of sand, as revealed in a study by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen. This means that an individual grain of sand can have twice as many residents as, say, the city of Fairbanks, Alaska!

Even bacteria hide

It has long been known that sand is a densely populated and active habitat. Now David Probandt and his colleagues have described the microbial community on a single grain of sand using modern molecular methods. To do this, they used samples taken from the southern North Sea, near the island of Heligoland, off the German coast.

The bacteria do not colonize the sand grains uniformly. While exposed areas are practically uncolonized, the bacteria bustle in cracks and depressions. “They are well protected there”, explains Probandt. “When water flows around the grains of sand and they are swirled around, rubbing against each other, the bacteria are safe within these depressions.” These sites may also act as hiding grounds from predators, who comb the surface of the sand grains in search of food.

Impressive diversity

However, the diversity of the bacteria, and not just their numbers, is impressive. “We found thousands of different species of bacteria on each individual grain of sand”, says Probandt.

Some bacteria species and groups can be found on all investigated sand grains, others only here and there. “More than half of the inhabitants on all grains are the same. We assume that this core community on all sand grains displays a similar function”, explains Probandt. “In principle, each grain has the same fundamental population and infrastructure.” We can therefore really discover a great deal about the bacterial diversity of sand in general from investigating a single grain of sand.

Sandy coasts are enormous filters

Sand-dwelling bacteria play an important role in the marine ecosystem and global material cycles. Because these bacteria process, for example, carbon and nitrogen compounds from seawater and fluvial inflows, the sand acts as an enormous purifying filter. Much of what is flushed into the seabed by seawater doesn't come back out.

“Every grain of sand functions like a small bacterial pantry”, explains Probandt. They deliver the necessary supplies to keep the carbon, nitrogen and sulphur cycles running. “Whatever the conditions may be that the bacterial community on a grain of sand is exposed to – thanks to the great diversity of the core community there is always someone to process the substances from the surrounding water.”

Original publication


Probandt, T. Eickhorst, A. Ellrott, R. Amann and Katrin Knittel (2017): Microbial life on a sand grain: from bulk sediment to single grains. The ISME Journal.
DOI:10.1038/ismej.2017.197
Published under CC-SA BY 4.0

Additional information

Probandt, D., Knittel, K., Tegetmeyer, H. E., Ahmerkamp, S., Holtappels, M. and Amann, R. (2017): Permeability shapes bacterial communities in sublittoral surface sediments. Environ Microbiol, 19: 1584–1599. doi:10.1111/1462-2920.13676

Please direct your queries to

David Probandt
Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology
Phone: +49 421 2028 940
E-Mail: dprobandt@mpi-bremen.de

Dr. Katrin Knittel
Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology
Phone: +49 421 2028 935
E-Mail: kknitel@mpi-bremen.de

or the press office

E-Mail: presse(at)mpi-bremen.de

Dr. Fanni Aspetsberger
Telefon: +49 421 2028 947
Dr. Manfred Schlösser
Phone: +49 421 2028 734

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.mpi-bremen.de
https://www.nature.com/articles/ismej2017197

Dr. Fanni Aspetsberger | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Scientists uncover the role of a protein in production & survival of myelin-forming cells
19.07.2018 | Advanced Science Research Center, GC/CUNY

nachricht NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts
18.07.2018 | New York Stem Cell Foundation

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>