Friday, July 12, 2013

Weekend Rebel Science Excursion - 18

"Some of our best friends are germs"
Of all the life forms that lived on the planet prior to humans, many have become extinct by way of five mass extinction events.

This post considers the Anthropogenic Sixth Mass Extinction underway now.

Scientists are beginning to learn that microbes and viruses are not biological enemies, as previously thought, rather they are essential for our survival.

Further, recently scientists are finding out that microbes and viruses also have a beneficial impact on the atmosphere and the oceans.

The atmosphere and oceans which we are severly damaging (see e.g. The Fog of Lore and New Continent Found - Garbage Gyre II - 5).

Those microbes and viruses even take part in the regulation ecosystems we depend upon for survival:
A major question in ecology has centered on the role of microbes in regulating ecosystem function. Now, in research published ahead of print in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Brajesh Singh of the University of Western Sydney, Australia, and collaborators show how changes in the populations of methanotrophic bacteria can have consequences for methane mitigation at ecosystem levels.
The selection hypothesis states that a small number of key species, rather than all species present determine key functions in ecosystems.
(Microbial Changes Regulate Function of Ecosystems, emphasis added). This is important because it indicates that damage to a few key microbial species by the varied and prolific pollutions of human civilization can cause widespread damage to the Earth even when we are damaging only a few key tiny species.

Thus, the egregious and shameful damage to the atmosphere and to the oceans could be far more dangerous than petroleum man has even yet considered:
There are an estimated 1031 viruses on Earth. That is to say: there may be a hundred million times more viruses on Earth than there are stars in the universe. The majority of these viruses infect microbes, including bacteria, archaea, and microeukaryotes, all of which are vital players in the global fixation and cycling of key elements such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus. These two facts combined—the sheer number of viruses and their intimate relationship with microbial life—suggest that viruses, too, play a critical role in the planet’s biosphere.
Furthermore, researchers analyzing oceanic life have discovered many novel viruses that defy much of the conventional wisdom about what a virus is and what a virus does.

Among these discoveries are “giant” marine viruses, with capsid cross-sections that can exceed 500 nm, an order of magnitude larger than prototypical viruses. Giant viruses infect eukaryotic hosts, including the protist Cafeteria and unicellular green algae. These viruses also carry genomes larger than nearly all previously identified viral types, in some cases upwards of 1 million base pairs. In both marine and nonmarine contexts, researchers have even identified viruses that can infect giant viruses, the so-called virophages ...
It is apparent that we still have much to learn about the rich and dynamic world of ocean microbes and viruses. For example, a liter of seawater collected in marine surface waters typically contains at least 10 billion microbes and 100 billion viruses—the vast majority of which remain unidentified and uncharacterized.
(An Ocean of Viruses, emphasis added). Clearly the Monsanto and Big Pharma wars against microbes and viruses have been murderously inept and ill advised (The Criminally Insane Epoch Arises).

Microbiologists recently have indicated that microbes, in virus format, may be a helpful part of our immune system (PNAS Paper: Bacteriophage Provide Immunity; Recorded Discussion: Are Viruses Part of Our Immune System?).

Microbes may even be essential to some brain activity as well (see Brain Microbial Populations and Microbial Languages: Rehabilitation of the Unseen).

The next post in this series is here, the previous post in this series is here.

The index into the following video of Dr. Bonnie Bassler is here.

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