Not the best microbiology reporting: New Scientist on Lonely Bacterium

Too traumatized by the events in Connecticut to write much here but trying to focus on work for but so here goes.

Uggh. This article does not sit well with me: World’s loneliest bug turns up in Death Valley – life – 13 December 2012 – New Scientist

The parts of the article I don’t like?

  • “Uniquely, the bacterium has evolved to do without the sun’s energy, relying only on hydrogen and sulphate, which can form naturally in its subterranean home.” Umm … how is this unique? What about all the other chemoautotrophic microbes known? What about deep sea vent communities? WTF this claim is so completely wrong I don’t know what to say.
  • The article implies that one can use percent identity of the DNA of microbes to tell us how recently they shared a common ancestor. Hmm … Is that under the model of “all organisms evolve in exactly the same way”? 
  • “Until recently, biologists thought that the species was confined to South Africa’s depths”. Really? So – the organism was discovered in one place and therefore we the biologists thought that it was confined there? 
  • Title: “World’s loneliest bug turns up in Death Valley”.  Sure – in the one system in South Africa this did seem to be a relatively lonely organism.  But to presume that this was the only place the organism was found was just silly. 

There.  Alas, writing this did not make me feel any better.  But it did distract me for a bit

Author: Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. (see my lab site here). My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis

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