The Tiny Desert Dwellers-Microbes of the desert

According to professor of microbiology Ferran Garcia-Pichel, who focuses on the tiny organisms living in the hostile desert, several distinct kinds of bacteria may be found in the Sonoran desert. He and the other researchers in his lab have found that the majority of these desert dwellers are thread-shaped and incredibly tiny; if you knotted 10–20 of them together, they would only be as thick as one strand of human hair.

Professor Garcia-Pichel has determined, after sorting through several batches of desert dirt, that the blue-green bacteria Microcoleus is the most prevalent microorganism in the Sonoran desert. These little animals excavate themselves a few sand grains down below the surface of the desert while it is dry.

Photo credit-askabiologist.asu.edu


Microcoleus desiccates, which means it dries out and shrinks until it contains just 1-2 percent water, in order to live in the harsh desert environment. It is parched and waiting. Professor Ferran Garcia-Pichel, a soil scientist, said, "It's really adept at doing nothing." When it becomes dry, "like salami," it doesn't go bad; instead, it merely remains motionless.


They have their own sunscreen:


Why would a scientist spend so much time trying to figure out how desert nomads survive? Cyanobacteria and Professor Garcia-Pichel have a long history together. Garcia-Pichel was meant to be researching how bacteria created dense sea mats at a NASA research site nearly 30 years ago, but instead, he was plodding down the meandering Baja coastline. He remarked, "I was traveling down this gorgeous desert about halfway down when I saw these bizarre black films or dots on granite stones. "On the north side, they were all. They were pure black because they were so dark. Garcia-Pichel stopped the car, got out, and began collecting some samples after being fascinated by the black growths.


It was found out that the cyanobacteria that had colonized the granite boulders had created scytonemin, a unique golden-brown substance with sunscreen-like properties. The cyanobacteria are shielded from the sun's harmful UV rays by their black tint.

Photo credit-asm.org


How do the survive the desert heat?


The life of a desert dweller is difficult. The sole means of survival is to hibernate or go dormant for extended periods. When the rains begin, Garcia-Pichel advised a swift return to action. Cyanobacteria are constantly exposed to damaging UV radiation, even when they have turned off all of their active defensive systems and are dormant. Since they are unable to actively repair their DNA or search for free radicals, they have expended a lot of energy building a thick coating of these sunscreen-like protective pigments.


Numerous bacteria, plants, and fungi reproduce by means of spores that lay dormant for a long time until the correct circumstances arise, at which point they germinate to generate a new copy of the original spore. A lengthy winter or a drought can both be survived with the help of spores. In contrast, water quickly evaporates and drains in a desert, preventing spore development. Just too slowly.

Photo credit-www.sciencedirect.com


Microcoleus had to come up with an alternative answer. In the desert, moisture evaporates quickly, leaving the microorganisms little time to prepare. These thread-like cyanobacteria immediately absorb water after a rainstorm and return back to life. Microcoleus had to come up with an alternative answer. In the desert, moisture evaporates quickly, leaving the microorganisms little time to prepare. These thread-like cyanobacteria immediately absorb water after a rainstorm and return back to life.

Photp credit-spatialexperiments.wordpress.com


We and most other living things are mostly made of water. Our bodies are up to 80% water, making us highly sloshy animals even if we feel relatively substantial. We wouldn't reanimate if you attempted to dehydrate us or any other living creature to less than 2% water content.


These microorganisms don't mind, though. As soon as it starts to rain, they spring back into activity, moving to the soil's surface and turning it green. Their bodies entwined, creating an intricate web of tiny filaments that holds the earth in place. When surfaces are crusted, they can withstand hurricane-force gusts without allowing the soil to fly into the air. The only weakness of these organisms are that they die when the soil is compressed which may happen due to camels or other pressure exerting objects.


Until next time, stay happy and stay safe.

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