New to Science: March 2015

Posted on March 20, 2015   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.


I’ve been thinking a lot about soil over the past few weeks. Here in the UK, it looks like the last frost of the year has passed, so I can enjoy a bit of time in the garden planting some vegetable seeds.

As always, soil is a big inspiration for microbiologists, with the ecosystem supporting a vast network of undiscovered microbes. The soils that are investigated seem slightly more exciting than those in my back garden, to be honest. For example, researchers from Thailand and Japan have discovered the new species Actinomadura rayongensis living in the soil of a peat forest in Thailand. In another forest, this time a mangrove forest in Malaysia, researchers have isolated the new soil bacterium Sinomonas humi.

Moving from one extreme to another, Chinese scientists have isolated Arthrobacter liuii from desert soil in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China. Soil from a rice field at the Kanagi Farm of the Faculty of Agriculture and Life Science of Hirosaki University is now known to be home to Clostridium oryzae.

One of the things I will be trying to grow this year is tomatoes. Healthy soil is important for growing these fruit (“Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting tomato in a fruit salad.”). Researchers in South Korea have identified Pedobacter ureilyticus in the rhizosphere surrounding the tomato plant’s roots. Other members of the genus Pedobacter have been isolated from soils used to grow potatoes, ginseng and cabbages.

One species of bacterium I’m not hoping to meet in my garden is Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. michiganensis, which, as I’m sure you’re aware, causes ‘bacterial canker’, a difficult to control tomato disease. This month, researchers working at the University of Hawaii at Manoa have identified two further subspecies of non-pathogenic Clavibacter michiganensis that were isolated from tomato and pepper seeds. These subspecies are important for seed producers as they can elicit a false-positive test, leading to the unnecessary destruction of seeds.

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: Luke Addison on Flickr under CC BY-SA 2.0