New to science: May 2014

Posted on May 20, 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.


Earlier this month, Austrian Conchita Wurst sang her way to victory in the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest in Denmark. For what may well be the first time in the contest’s history, the winner’s name is also a foodstuff: “Wurst” is the stereotypical staple of Germanic cuisine, the sausage (although in Conchita’s case, the word probably refers more to an Austrian slang phrase for “it doesn’t matter”).

As if in appreciation of the act’s choice of name, scientists have discovered a veritable Smörgåsbord of new microbes in food-related settings. Korean researchers, for example, have isolated Endozoicomonas atrinae from the intestines of a comb pen shell, a popular ingredient in seafood dishes in the Far East. At Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore, India, a Singaporean-Indian team discovered Methylobacterium pseudosasicolaon the leaves of a bamboo plant on the university campus. This team also worked with a Korean researcher to identify Rhodanobacter glycinis in a field of soya beans near the university.

On the other side of the world, a very different staple was found to harbour new life forms. Scientists from Peru, Mexico and Spain isolated Bradyrhizobium paxllaeri and B. icense from soil in a field of lima beans in Peru. These bacteria live near the roots of beanstalks and maintain a symbiotic, or mutually beneficial, relationship with the plants.

In the US, a bacterium was found living near the roots of maize plants by a German, Austrian and American quartet in Auburn, Alabama; they honoured the city by naming the microbe Pseudogracilibacillus auburnensis. Not content with just one discovery, however, they investigated the maize plants further and isolated Nocardioides zeae from the plants’ stems.

Back in the Old World, new discoveries were made in more exotic (by British standards) delicacies. A Spanish team isolated Streptococcus cuniculi from the respiratory tract of wild rabbits located in the El Pardo forest on the outskirts of Madrid, Spain. In Seville, 250 miles to the southwest, Enterococcus olivae was discovered in the olive fermentation tanks of two olive companies.

Across the Strait of Gibraltar from the two Spanish teams, Moroccan and Belgian researchers discovered not just one but two novel species of Streptococcus in raw camel milk. They named S. moroccensis after the country of its discovery, while S. rifensis is eponymous of the Rif region of northern Morocco where their research was undertaken.

Finally, scientists from Belgium and Portugal teamed up to identify Acetobacter sicerae from both cider and kefir, a fermented, lightly alcoholic milk drink originating in the Caucasus mountains.

To close this edition of New to Science, I would like to note that on 25 May, the world will celebrate Towel Day in memory of Douglas Adams and his trilogy in five partsThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In tribute to Mr Adams, I would like to give an honourable mention to Bacillus qingshengii, a bacterium which is poetically described as “…a rock-weathering bacterium isolated from a weathered rock surface”.

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!