“The search for life on Mars is paired with plenty of strong warnings about how we must sterilize our spacecraft to avoid contaminating our neighbor planet. How will we know what’s native Martian if we unintentionally seed the place with Earth organisms? A popular analogy points out that Europeans unknowingly brought smallpox to the New World, and they took home syphilis. Similarly, it is argued, our robotic explorations could contaminate Mars with terrestrial microorganisms.
As an astrobiologist who researches the environments of early Mars, I suggest these arguments are misleading. The current danger of contamination via unmanned robots is actually quite low. But contamination will become unavoidable once astronauts get there. NASA, other agencies and the private sector hope to send human missions to Mars by the 2030s.”
Want to know more? Read about it here.
Like the novel, War of the Worlds, it is best to fear the tiny.
Or at least it might have been when the dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Want to know more, or to know how the heck paleontologists figure out how a microorganism caused fossils to form?
Read about it here!
Birds have a number of loud and showy ways to attach a mate. But they also have a subtle one: smell.
And it turns out that some of that smell are naturally made by bacteria in the preening gland.
So I’m not saying you should use “hey girl, you smell like the best bacteria” as a pick up line, but it might be worth trying!
(If you’re a bird. NiB is not responsible for this interaction going south)
Read all about the work by Danielle Whittaker over at Science News!
“Hey girl, you smell like the sexiest microbes”
I will admit it, I cannot get enough of microbiomes!
And it turns out, neither can other people. Even PHD comics have made an awesome little video about them.
Check it out!
In the Origin of Species, Darwin described a “great Tree of Life” which is “fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever branching and beautiful ramifications.”
Ever since then biologist have been trying to describe such a tree. And it should surprise no one that the recent focus on microbial ecology has expanded the Tree considerably.
Read about it at the New York Times or in the paper over at Nature Microbiology .
Hug et al. 2016
Darwin’s tree, in concept and in the only figure published in his Origin of Species.
One of the greatest tag lines for studying microbes is “You have more microbes in your body than you have cells!”
However… it turns out that might not strictly be true. Which is a shame, because it was a great tag line…
Read about it over at the Atlantic!
Or read the review paper here.