December 14, 2017 | David F. Coppedge

Bacteria Rule the Earth

Bacteria are inescapable. They’re everywhere. Fortunately, many of them are here for good.

Guess how many bacteria live in a grain of sand. [Pause to think.] According to the Max Planck Institute, a grain of sand is a metropolis for tiny life forms. “A single sand grain harbours up to 100,000 microorganisms from thousands of species.” Your visit to the beach will never be the same. The sand you sit on, build sand castles with and bury yourself in is crawling with germs. But not to worry; they’re good germs. They’re doing you and the world a favor by helping keep the ocean clean and keep earth’s nitrogen and carbon cycles going.

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 does­n’t come back out.

“Every grain of sand func­tions like a small bac­terial pantry”, ex­plains Probandt. They de­liver the ne­ces­sary sup­plies to keep the car­bon, ni­tro­gen and sul­phur cycles run­ning. “Whatever the con­di­tions may be that the bac­terial com­munity on a grain of sand is ex­posed to – thanks to the great di­versity of the core com­munity there is al­ways someone to pro­cess the sub­stances from the sur­round­ing wa­ter.”

Maybe you think you can escape the germs. You travel to Antarctica. Now are you germ-free? No; geoscientists from Tübingen University say that tiny globetrotters have beat you there. Surprisingly, the same kinds of bacteria live at both poles. This implies that they migrate around the world somehow, possibly by birds or humans, or maybe through the atmosphere. An article on Evolution News & Science Today reveals one possible method for world travel: dust particles in the clouds. Bacteria can live on tiny bits of dust that travel around the world:

There are a hundred to a thousand eukaryotic cells per milliliter, and a thousand to ten thousand bacteria and archaea. These numbers vastly exceed cell counts from previous observations. “Clouds are extremely rich and diverse mosaics of multiple sources ecosystems,” the researchers say.

Another article at Evolution News & Science Today explores the dirt under your feet. Desert crusts include photosynthetic microbes, research has shown, that support whole communities of organisms. Some of them may be responsible for reducing static electricity in the sand and soil. Without that function, the surface of the earth might be less habitable, as it appears to be on Mars and Titan, the article says.

By now we should be gaining respect for the hordes of unseen life forms that surround us. These are not primitive, useless germs. They sense their environment to explore it, says a press release from the University of Barcelona. This appears to be true of cells in your body tissues as well. Even without eyes, cells are aware. Their paper in Nature explains how “force loading” gives cells their spatial sense. The press release likens this to “seeing” people around you by feeling their faces.

Experiments at the Technical University of Munich showed some of the ways bacteria adapt to their surroundings. When food is scarce or plentiful, the organisms adapt their digestive systems by actively controlling the number of digestive enzymes they produce. Cells can sense their surroundings, move and adapt. Sand and rocks do not “sense their environment to explore it.” Such abilities require coded information to be expressed in molecular machines that can carry out these processes intentionally.

Update 12/21/17: For the first time scientists have directly observed living bacteria in polar ice and snow (Science Daily). “For the first time scientists have directly observed living bacteria in polar ice and snow — an environment once considered sterile.” Dr Kelly Redeker stated, “the fact that we have observed metabolically active bacteria in the most pristine ice and snow is a sign of life proliferating in environments where you wouldn’t expect it to exist.” Without any evidence for extraterrestrial microbes, or even with any notion that it is possible for them to arise by chance, he added: “This suggests we may be able to broaden our horizons when it comes to thinking about which planets are capable of sustaining life.”

The globe is saturated with coded information. Bacteria even life on the ocean floor, conducting electricity to the surrounding water (11/10/12). It may be that, as reported on 6/06/14, the Earth needs inhabitants to be habitable. Where does coded information come from? There is only one cause we know of for it: intelligence.

For more wonders of the world, consider the new book by two CEH contributors, Spacecraft Earth: A Guide for Passengers. To get a taste of this book’s treasure chest of amazing facts, you can read about 30 pages in a Sneak Peek available from the Publisher, Creation Ministries International.


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