New to Science: December 2014

Posted on December 9, 2014   by Jon Fuhrmann

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.

The Christmas theme has begun to well and truly dominate every aspect of our lives, with just over two weeks to go until the big day. Here at the Society for General Microbiology, we would like to buck the trend for variety’s sake and provide you with some light reading that is not holiday-specific. After all, new species are always out there waiting to be discovered, and the fruits of busy microbiologists’ labours are showcased in this month’s New to Science.

Japanese researchers, for example, teamed up with colleagues from Gabon in central Africa to study the differences between captive and wild western lowland gorillas. They sampled the faeces of animals from Kyoto Zoo and the Moukalaba-Doudou National Park in Gabon and isolated Lactobacillus gorillae, a new addition to the over 200 Lactobacillus species found in a variety of animal intestines and fermented foods. The same strain of the bacterium was found in all the gorillas, suggesting that the microbes shared a common ancestor not too long ago.

In other primate news, an international group of scientists in Texas analysed samples of baboon placentas taken after the monkeys had suffered stillbirths. They discovered Brucella papionis, a new species that belongs to a group of bacteria associated with unsuccessful pregnancies in various animals.

At Ghent University in Belgium, a group of Czech, Belgian and French scientists isolated a new species of Acinetobacter from horse dung and named it A. gandensis. To their surprise, they also found bacteria belonging to the same species in dung samples from a horse and a cow in Lebanon and a forest pool in a natural reserve in the Czech Republic.

Beluga whales normally live in the frigid waters of the Arctic Ocean, but they are also popular in aquariums due to their characteristic white colour and expressive faces. Korean researchers investigated the faeces of one whale at the Yeosu aquarium in Busan and isolated Amphritea ceti. This group of bacteria is named after Amphritete, the wife of Poseidon in Greek mythology.

French microbiologists studying people with leptospirosis in the French overseas territory of Mayotte, near Madagascar, have isolated a new strain of Leptospira bacteria from their patients. These bacteria cause a range of diseases, from Weil’s disease to severe lung infections. The new species is called L. mayottensis after the place of its discovery.

Symbiosis, the mutually beneficial co-operation of two or more organisms, is a concept many of us may be familiar with from the plant and animal kingdoms. Groups of microbes that enter such symbiotic relationships are sometimes known as consortia. Chinese researchers investigated microbial consortia at a biogas production facility belonging to the Modern Farming Corporation in Hebei province, near Beijing. They isolated Clostridium huakuii from several of the consortia in the biogas reactor. In Tianjin, just across the provincial border, a fish-farming pond yielded Colwellia aquaemaris. Continuing the farming theme (and the northeast Chinese theme), Comamonas serinivorans was isolated from wheat compost in the neighbouring Shandong province.

Microbiologists also ventured further afield in their search for new species. A Chinese team isolated Sphingobacterium gobiense from soil in the Gobi desert in Central Asia, while looking for bacteria resistant to the aridity and heat of the desert. At the other end of the spectrum, Korean researchers ventured to Antarctica and discovered Granulosicoccus marinus in seawater collected just off the coast of the Antarctic peninsula.

These are just a few of the new species described this month; you can see the full list on the IJSEM website. The staff of the Society for General Microbiology and its journals would like to conclude this final New to Science of 2014 by wishing you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Look out for us again in 2015!