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Grain of sand harbors over 100,000 microorganisms
January 7, 2018, 4:12 pm

Visit a beach, grab a fistful of sand and enjoy the sensation as you let it trickle down through your fingers. What you may not be aware is that along with the sand billions upon billions of bacteria are also trickling by your fingers. New study by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Germany have found that between 10,000 and 100,000 microorganisms live on each single grain of sand.

  It has long been known that sand is a densely populated and active habitat. Using modern molecular methods, the research team described the microbial community on a single grain of sand.

Bacteria on the sand grain were found to be distributed unevenly on the surface, with exposed areas remaining uninhabited, while cracks and depressions on the surface were swarming with bacteria colonies.

Besides their numbers, the diversity of bacteria species found on the sand grain was impressive said the researchers. Some bacteria species and groups were found on all investigated sand grains and formed a core community, while others were found more sparsely.

Sand-dwelling bacteria play an important role in the marine ecosystem and global material cycles. Because these bacteria process, for example, carbon and nitrogen compounds from seawater and fluvial inflows, the sand acts as an enormous purifying filter. Much of what is flushed into the seabed by seawater does not come back out.

Every grain of sand functions like a small bacterial plant delivering the necessary supplies to keep the carbon, nitrogen and sulfur cycles running. The team found that, due to the vast diversity of the core bacteria community, no matter what environmental conditions they were exposed to, some bacteria was always there to process the substances from the surrounding water.


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