New to science: February 2014

Posted on February 10, 2014   by Benjamin Thompson

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.

Reading this month’s edition of IJSEM, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a system of medicine developed by the Ancient Greeks (no, really). The now discounted theory, developed around 400 BC, suggested that the human body consisted of four ‘humours’: air, fire, earth and water. Having out-of-balance humours was the reason that a person got ill.

Why was I thinking of this while perusing the issue? Well it appears that a great many of the new microbial species identified by researchers this month fit into the humours’ four themes.

Water is well represented this month. Firstly, researchers from Taiwan have identified Robertkochia marina living in surface seawater collected near Taichung harbour, Taiwan, named after Robert Koch, the pioneering microbiologist.

A team of researchers from China and South Korea has isolated Glaciihabitans tibetensis, found dwelling at a height of 6,800 metres in the Midui glacier, Tibet, while a separate group of Chinese researchers have found Cnuella takakiae living on a species of moss on the nearby Gawalong glacier. 9,799 miles away on King George Island, Antarctica, moss has also shown to be home to the yeast Cryptococcus fildesensis.

Air is another of the humours, represented this month by Diaphorobacter aerolatus, a new species of bacteria described by researchers from the National Academy of Agricultural Science, South Korea. The new microbe was isolated from outdoor air in the Suwon region, using an air sampler containing a petri dish.

Unsurprisingly, earth is a popular place to look for new species of microbes. Methanospirillum psychrodurum has been found living in wetland soil. The species, a methane-producing bacterium, was discovered by researchers in China during a survey of the Madoi wetland on the Tibetan plateau.

Forest soil in Nanjing, China, has been shown to be home to Myroides xuanwuensis, while Arthrobacter gyeryongensis, has been isolated from a field of Gynostemma pentaphyllum, a traditional Asian medicinal herb. In Germany, researchers from the Justus-Liebig University Giessen have described Cellvibrio diazotrophicus, a new species found living in a nature protection area near Münzenberg.

The final Humour is, of course, fire. You won’t find any microbes that flourish in flames, but you will find a lot living in very hot places. Hydrothermal vents, for example, are pretty warm. Found at the bottom of the ocean, these vents emit mineral-rich, super-heated water and are home to a multitude of obscure species. A group of Japanese researchers have now shown that sediment near a hydrothermal vent in Kagoshima Bay, Japan, is home to Methyloceanibacter caenitepidi.

On land, a group of Chinese researchers have identified Thermus caliditerrae, a new species living in geothermally–heated sediment near the (brilliantly-named) Hydrothermal Explosion area and Frog Mouth Spring in the Yunnan province of China.

Away from, the humours there have been a lot of animal discoveries this month. I think my favourite is Bifidobacterium moukalabense, found living in the faeces of wild west-lowland gorillas, by researchers from Japan and Gabon. Bifidobacteria are intestinal bacteria, widely distributed among mammals. Fresh faeces were collected by the researchers in Moukalaba-Doudou National Park, Gabon.

Aquatic animals get quite the look in too. Flavobacterium tructae and Flavobacterium piscis were both isolated from farmed Rainbow Trout, while the fish-pathogen Flavobacterium spartansii was isolated from salmon. Finally, Marinomonas fungiae has been isolated from coral living in the Pacific Ocean.

These are just a few of the new species described this month; you can see the full list at IJSEM. We’ll be back again next month with a host of new ones, look out for us then!