New to science: January 2014

Posted on January 13, 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.

Happy New Year, everyone – hope you all had an excellent break. I feel confident enough to say that some of you reading this may have overdone the festivities of the past few weeks and are considering a health kick to get yourselves back on track. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Perhaps a good start would be to lay off the lard and cook with olive oil for a while. This month in New to science, researchers in France have described the previously unknown species Halomonas olivaria, a moderately halophilic (salt-loving) bacterium, living in the briny waste of olive oil production.

It’s good to eat lots of vegetables if you’re aiming to be healthy. If you happen to find yourself in Taiwan in January, maybe you can get some of your intake from yan-tsai-shin – fermented broccoli stalks. The foodstuff is also home to Lactococcus formosensis, a member of a genus widely distributed among traditional fermented foods in Taiwan. This new discovery was made by a team of researchers from Taiwan and Japan.

Many of us will have overindulged on chocolate and sweets over the holidays, and too much sugar can lead to bacteria-related tooth decay. However, countless microbes also inhabit the mouths of healthy people, with a new species being added to the list this month: Streptococcus dentisani. This Gram-positive microbe was isolated by researchers in Spain, from plaque on the surface of teeth of people who have never had a dental cavity.

For about the first three weeks of January, the gyms and health clubs of the UK will be rammed with people full of good intentions. Finding space in the aerobics classes, weight rooms and saunas will be a pain for you regular fitness folk. While the post-sauna plunge pool might be uncomfortably chilly, I’d wager it’s not nearly as cold as the Arctic waters of Svalbard in Norway. These roiling swells turn out to be home to Formosa arctica, a new species discovered in water collected near the Dasan Korean Arctic Station in Ny-Ålesund.

Finally, if none of this seems appealing and you just fancy a drink, perhaps I could recommend a traditional Chinese liquor? Many of these beverages are made using Daqu – a fermentation starter made of wheat flour – which has been shown by researchers to be home to the thermophilic (heat-loving) bacterium Thermoactinomyces daqus.

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!