New to science: May 2015

Posted on May 14, 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.

This month I’m going to attempt something special. I’m going to try to tenuously link together an entire blog post’s worth of new microbial discoveries, based on where they were discovered – wish me luck.

Let’s start with Uruburuella testudinis. This Gram-negative, non-motile species of bacteria was isolated by researchers in Switzerland from the respiratory tract of healthy tortoises and from the organs of septicaemic tortoises. The new species’ name relates to Testudo, the Latin word for tortoise.

The most famous tortoises in the world are the giant tortoises that live on the Galápagos Islands (RIP Lonesome George). The islands, along with mainland Ecuador, have been shown by researchers from Britain and Ecuador to be home to the yeast Kazachstania yasuniensis. Strains of the new fungus were identified in the mainland Yasuní National Park with others found among the islands. One particular strain – CLQCA 24SC-045 – was collected from a rotten ‘daisy tree’, a species native to the Galápagos.

Rotten trees sometimes fall over, and fallen wood is the source of another new species: the bacterium Pedobacter silvilitoris. Specifically, this new microbe was isolated from wood that had fallen into the coastal sea surrounding the island of Wando, South Korea.

The sea is, as we know, made of salt water, also known as saline water. However it is not just the sea that is saline. In Turkey, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pamukkale is known for its saline hot springs and limestone travertines. Russian researchers have isolated Methylobrevis pamukkalensis from the area, a new member of the genus Methylobrevis, of which other members have been found in soda lakes in Kenya and Russia.

The evaporation of saline water to produce table salt is a manufacturing process that dates back thousands of years. This evaporation often takes place in areas known as salterns; unsurprisingly, these are home to a number of salt-loving bacteria. Adding to the burgeoning list is Idiomarina halophile, discovered by Korean researchers working in Gomso in the west of the country.

Speaking of ancient manufacturing processes, examples of textile dyes date back to Neolithic times. Traditionally, dyes were often made from plant sources but now they are synthetically derived. At the Changshu Dyestuffs and Chemical Plant in Jiangsu, China, researchers identified Dyadobacter jiangsuensis, which is capable of degrading the azo dye methyl red.

There we have it then, team – a tenuously linked group of microbes, which goes to show the sheer breadth of places that they can be found. And 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: David Cook on Flickr under CC BY-NC 2.0