Sand is covered in bacteria
The tiny nooks and crannies of sand grains are the homes of countless bacterium colonies, which appear green in a microscope.
The next time you are on a beach, letting a handful of sand slip through your fingers, think about how you hold about 500 billion bacteria in your hands.
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Bremen, Germany, have examined how many different bacteria they could find in sand from an area off the small island of Heligoland in the North Sea. They were not surprised that the sand was full of bacteria, but they were amazed that it was so diverse. On one single sand grain, they found thousands of different species, but the distribution was not the same on all grains. Some species were present on almost all sand grains, whereas others only rarely existed. According to the head of the studies, marine biologist David Probandt, the species that exist on all sand grains probably also play the same role in the local eco system.
Bacteria’s conversion of carbon, nitrogen, and sulphur is an important part of Earth’s cycle of those very elements; a cycle that all life on our planet forms part of.
The scientists’ microscopes also showed that the bacterium colonies are not evenly distributed on the tiny pieces of quartz. The smooth areas on the surface are almost deserted, whereas bacteria thrive in the tiny nooks and crannies, which protect them against friction from other sand grains and hungry enemies.