New to science: July 2015

Posted on July 20, 2015   by Anand Jagatia

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.


As always, this month’s New to Science contains microbes from a wide range of plants, animals and environments.

In the plant kingdom, researchers from Spain have isolated a new species of Vibrio bacteria from fermentations of Spanish-style green olives, and propose the name Vibrio olivae. The fermentation process involves covering the fruits with brine, during which different populations of microbes emerge as the fermentation progresses through different stages.

Across the world in China, another (much less edible) plant was found to be the source of a novel actinomycete, Plantactinospora veratri. The new species was isolated from the root of Veratrum nigrum, which is also known as ‘black false hellebore’. The plant, which apparently smells very unpleasant, has been known since ancient times for its high toxicity. Eating very small amounts can cause blurred vision, vomiting, muscle twitching and even death.

On the Tibetan Plateau in China, the Himalayan marmot is the animal reservoir of plague. The deadly disease is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, and in fact, most patients of plague from this region are marmot hunters. Researchers from China and Finland have isolated a new strain of bacteria, Helicobacter himalayensis, from this same species of marmot during a four-year operation to monitor animal plague activity.

The other mammal in this month’s post is the ring-tailed lemur. Scientists from Italy isolated the novel species Bifidobacterium lemurum from this species, which, like all lemurs, is native to Madagascar. Bifidobacteria are thought be an important component of the gut microbiota, helping animals digest their food. An interesting idea is that during the evolution of the different primates, gastrointestinal microbiomes facilitated the digestion of individual diets – and so became functionally linked and specific to different species.

Some bacteria are able to survive in very cold conditions. Researchers from China and Korea discovered a bacterium called Luteolibacter arcticus in Arctic tundra soil from the Svalbard Archipelago in Norway, while a team of researchers has discovered a new species of ‘psychrophilic’ (cold-loving) bacteria from alpine glaciers in Switzerland – Glaciimonas alpina.

Lastly, two new species of microbe have been discovered deep down under the sea. Caloranaerobacter ferrireducens is a thermophilic, anaerobic, iron-reducing bacterium that was isolated from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent in the East Pacific Ocean – at a depth of 2,901m, while Bacillus rigiliprofundi is a Manganese-oxidising bacterium that was isolated from 341m below the seafloor, by drilling into the basaltic crust.

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

Image: Dhruvaraj S on Flickr under CC BY 2.0