New to Science: November 2014

Posted on November 13, 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.

As supermarkets and the media never fail to remind us, the festive season has arrived – whether we like it or not. Fortunately, this is also an opportunity to relax a little and enjoy quality time with those dear to us. More often than not, a sophisticated tipple is served at such social occasions – much to the joy of the wine industry.

French wine producers, in particular, are pleased with the outcome of the 2014 harvest and are predicting that this will have been a good wine year. Their Greek counterparts are less optimistic: difficult weather conditions throughout the growing and harvesting seasons saw production drop by 15%. A team of microbiologists from Greek universities also took an interest in their country’s wine output, albeit for a different reason. They studied grapes from a vineyard in the Nemea region and isolated a new species of bacterium, Weissella uvarum.

In other parts of the world, fermented grape juice is less of a staple at the dining-room table. Researchers at Chung-Ang University in Seoul studied a dish called myeolchi-jeot, a traditional Korean dish made from fermented anchovies, and identified the bacterium Salimicrobium jeotgali. Sugarcane juice, meanwhile, is a popular drink across Southeast Asia. A Thai team isolated Wickerhamiella siamensis, a species of yeast that grows on the leaves of sugarcane plants without damaging them.

Another species of Wickerhamiella bacteria, W. allomyrinae, was discovered in the gut of a rhinoceros beetle by Chinese scientists. Since these beetles feed on sugarcane plants, the bacterium was likely consumed by the specimen just before it was studied by the researchers.

Elsewhere in the animal kingdom, Japanese researchers isolated a previously unknown species of Streptococcus from the oral cavity of an African elephant. They named it S. oriloxodontae, after ‘oris’ (Greek for ‘mouth’) and ‘loxodontae’, the scientific name of the African elephant. Danish and German scientists studied Syrian and European hamsters and isolated two new genera of bacteria, both in the Pasteurellaceae family. They named them Mesocricetibacter intestinalis and Cricetibacter osteomyelitidis, respectively.

As they are wont to do, a number of microbiologists have also been travelling to far-flung places in pursuit of their quest to introduce hitherto unknown microbes to science. In Bijie in southern China, Thermomonas carbonis was isolated from soil inside a coal mine. A team from Korea scaled the country’s tallest mountain, Hallasan, to isolate Aneurinibacillus soli from a soil sample collected at 1,950m above sea level. A different group discovered Pedobacter pituitosus at the Wibong waterfalls, less than 200 miles to the north.

American and Korean researchers teamed up to explore the Juan de Fuca Ridge off the coasts of the northwestern USA and British Columbia in Canada. Here, they discovered Thermococcus paralvinellae and T. cleftensis, two heat-loving species of bacteria that thrive in the low-oxygen conditions of hydrothermal vents. Over 5,000 miles to the southwest, a Japanese team isolated Psychrobium conchae from the Iheya North hydrothermal field off the eponymous island in Okinawa, Japan.

To get our loyal readers into the spirit for next month’s Christmas edition, we conclude this issue of New to Science with a microbe that was discovered near the closest fully functional settlement to the North Pole. A group of scientists from Wuhan University in China discovered Terrimonas arctica in a sample of the frozen soil near Ny-Ålesund in the Svalbard archipelago.

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!