New microbes found in vultures, rattlesnakes and Japanese burial mounds

Posted on July 25, 2017   by Anand Jagatia

Each month, the Microbiology Society publishes the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology (IJSEM), 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.

There are plenty of exciting finds this month so let’s dive straight in.

Researchers from China have discovered two new species of bacteria from two different species of Old World vulture in the Tibetan Plateau. Vultures may be a source of infectious pathogens as they feed on rotting carcasses and also scavenge the corpses from sky burials. To study the microbiome of vultures in this part of the world, the team live-captured wild birds and took rectal swabs, isolating the bacteria Actinomyces liubingyangii and Actinomyces vulturis.

 A team from the US has isolated a bacterium from a timber rattlesnake in Minnesota, which they name Enterococcus crotali. Timber rattlesnakes are an animal we’ve written about before, as they’re one of the species that has been hit hard by snake fungal disease in North America.

In Japan, scientists have isolated an actinobacterium from the stone chambers of ancient burial mounds called ‘tumuli’. These circular structures in the Asuka village are thought to have been built in the 7th or 8th century, and the walls inside the stone chambers contain 1300-year-old mural paintings. Damage to these paintings may have been caused by the activity of micro-organisms, so the researchers have been carrying out microbial surveys of the site since 2004. Now, they report the discovery of Microbacterium tumbae, a microbe which colonised the plaster surface.

A couple of new archaea to highlight in this issue – Pyrobaculum igneiluti is a hyperthermophilic (extremely heat-loving) species isolated from a mud volcano in California, while Sulfodiicoccus acidiphilus is a thermoacidophilic (heat- and acid-loving) archaeon isolated from an acidic hot spring by a team in Japan.

Finally for this month, some bacteria from milk and honey. Researchers from SouthKorea have discovered two new species of bacteria living in the honeybee. Five bees were collected from a hive, and the novel species Paenibacillus apis and Paenibacillus intestini were isolated from their intestines. Meanwhile, microbiologists from Germany have isolated the species Pseudomonas lactis and Pseudomonas paralactis from raw cow’s milk. The team was researching the biodiversity and spoilage potential of milk microbiota.

The full papers describing these species are available to journal subscribers, but the abstracts are free to read. Articles can also purchased individually with the pay-per-view option.