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.

Science Illustrated - - SCIENCE UPDATE -

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.

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