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Name: Daniel
Status: Other
Grade:  Other
Location: OH
Country: United States
Date: April 2008


Question:
I read about a kind of bacteria, that is commonly found in mud puddles, and that reacts various minerals in its surroundings to survive. Could you tell me where I might look to find out more detailed information? (i.e. scientific names, traits)



Replies:
I think you might be thinking of Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans, which lives in sewers, mine waters, and other places. It breaks down sulfur to sulfuric acid (hence the name). I'm not sure how common it is in mud puddles that form from rain, but it can be found in soil and various waste waters.

Some more general info:

Traditionally, plants use sunlight and CO2 to build the molecules they need for life and give off oxygen. Animals eat organic molecules for food and use oxygen, and give off CO2. However, there are several kinds of organisms that break these typical 'rules'. Bacteria and archaea (archaea are single-celled organisms that resemble bacteria, but their internal machinery is different) can use many other substances. For example, they might break down various organic chemicals, inorganic chemicals (like iron and sulfur), like you mention.

Typically these organisms thrive where oxygen (or CO2), organic food, and/or light are not widely available, or where conditions are otherwise very extreme. The nickname "extremophiles" is often used because they live in boiling-hot springs, deep sea vents, and similar extreme locales. For example, deep ocean vents have a lot of dissolved iron, and so microorganisms that live there might reduce that iron for energy. In a typical mud puddle, you would not likely find these kind of extremophiles because it's 'easier' to use oxygen, CO2, and organic molecules to support life. If you dig a little deeper into the mud below a pond or natural puddle, you might find anaerobes (organisms that live without oxygen) that break down various chemicals, produce methane or other substances.

Hope this helps,
Burr



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