Fossil blue-green algae.

Another image from the Nikon small world photomicrography competition, winning 5th place in 1993, depicts a fossilised section of the type of organism that gave the world free oxygen three billion years ago or more. Without these life-forms, who incidentally are not algae but cyanobacteria, none of life as we know it would exist. The oxygen from these first photosynthesisers first filled the oceans, resulting in the banded iron formations from where we mine that metal, and then the atmosphere, paving the way for the rise of oxygen using marine and terrestrial life. In the process, they incidentally poisoned off most of the existing ecosystem, since it couldn’t tolerate free oxygen. They survive as what we now call extremophiles.

The magnification is 10 times, and the lighting used that known as brightfield, which is direct illumination from below the sample.


Image credit: Norm Barker


Meet one of the cyanobacterial strains im raising! Sweet child likes the light, is filamentous, and changes colour depending on light too! HOW ADORABLE! 💚💚

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Cyanobacteria from a pond sample into which neighbors were dumping their grass clippings. Cyanobacteria is the long strands that have “beads” on them. Those beads are called heterocysts and they allow the bacteria to perform nitrogen fixation in aerobic conditions where fixed nitrogen is absent. The heterocyst cells develop from vegetative cells on the strand in a semi-regular interval, and therefore some cyanobacteria are multicellular bacteria containing different types of cells.

There are few things, in my opinion, that look so beautiful under a microscope as cyanobacteria. Formerly known as blue-green algae, this is some truly amazing stuff. It can be found everywhere- from oceans to lakes to soils. We use it in “superfood” smoothies and to make biofuel. Most importantly, life as we know it on this planet probably wouldn’t exist without it.

Cyanobacteria are able to do two really important things: they perform photosynthesis, using the energy of sunlight to split water and make sugars, and they can “fix” atmospheric nitrogen into an organic form. This second skill is especially important. Every living thing needs nitrogen to build DNA, proteins, and other important things found in cells. The atmosphere of the earth is over 70% nitrogen gas, but this gas is made up of pairs of nitrogen atoms that are tightly bound together and very difficult to split apart to make other stuff. Cyanobacteria have an enzyme (nitrogenase) that can split apart the nitrogen pairs and convert them to ammonium, a nitrogen compound that living things can more readily use. There are only a handful of organisms that can do this, and they are all microbes. Every other living thing relies on these guys to make nitrogen available for the rest of us.

Pretty sweet! But it gets even sweeter.

Notice how most of the cells in that picture have little green globs inside, but some of the cells just look empty? Those little green globs are folds in the cell membrane that contain the pigments that capture light for photosynthesis. The energy from the captured light splits water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen goes on to combine with carbon dioxide to make sugar, and the oxygen is released as waste. When cyanobacteria first figured out how to do this, there was no oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere. All that oxygen slowly built up from years and years of these little guys splitting water to make sugar. About 2.4 billion years ago, the Great Oxidation Event occurred: the concentration of oxygen in our atmosphere hit about 1% of what it is today. It doesn't sound like much, but it was enough to radically change the course of life on this planet.

And speaking of evolution, chloroplasts (the organelles that perform photosynthesis in plant cells) most likely evolved from a cyanobacterium that was engulfed by a bigger cell. We know this because the DNA in chloroplasts is much more similar to cyanobacteria DNA than it is to the DNA found in the nucleus of the plant’s cells. Every plant you can think of contains a cyanobacterial ancestor in each of its cells.

Ok, cool, but what about those empty cells up there? Those are called heterocysts, and they’re basically little nitrogen-fixing factories. It turns out that nitrogenase, that enzyme that fixes nitrogen gas, is really sensitive to oxygen. Photosynthesis produces a ton of oxygen as waste. So, the nitrogenase has to be kept in its own compartment separate from where the photosynthesis happens. This means that while most of the cyanobacteria are capturing sunlight and producing sugars, a couple of them are being fed sugars by the other cyanobacteria, and providing fixed nitrogen in return. This is a pretty cool concept, because remember- each one of those cells up there is a single organism. This means that they have basically formed a community where goods and services are being exchanged, and jobs are being assigned. Sound familiar? It’s basically what happens between the cells in your body, except on a smaller scale. 

Is your mind blown yet?

(Somebody make me a necklace that looks like these things, please?)

Slime can see                

After more than 300 years of looking, scientists have figured out how bacteria “see” their world. And they do it in a remarkably similar way to us.

A team of British and German researchers reveal in the journal eLife how bacterial cells act as the equivalent of a microscopic eyeball or the world’s oldest and smallest camera eye.

“The idea that bacteria can see their world in basically the same way that we do is pretty exciting,” says lead researcher Conrad Mullineaux, Professor of Microbiology from QMUL’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

Caption:  Bacteria are optical objects, each cell acting like a microscopic eyeball or the world’s oldest and smallest camera eye. Credit: eLife

anonymous asked:

Whats the great oxygenation event??

Oh boy! So, this all takes place around 2.3 billion years ago. Up until then, life had been pretty much chilling for a billion or so years. Pretty much everything was a single-celled organism back then. Also, the planet was a whole lot different. There was no ozone layer, so UV radiation was constantly reaching the surface. That kills stuff, by the way, in high concentrations. Methane gas was also being spewed into the air by various volcanic eruptions. So, not a very nice place. Most importantly, oxygen wasn’t much of a thing. The little there was existed in the ocean and bonded with the iron molecules that were floating around to make rust.

(Home sweet home.)

The organisms that were alive got along just fine without oxygen, for the time being. These are called anaerobic organisms, and some of them still exist today. A lot are in your stomach right now. Anyways, along comes this little thing called a cyanobacteria. It’s unclear how they evolved, but the point is, they can do this neat trick we like to call photosynthesis. As you probably know, a byproduct of photosynthesis is oxygen.

Cyanobacteria were incredibly successful - they could make up to 16 times as much energy as anything else. So, they started multiplying. Pretty soon, there was a bunch of extra oxygen floating around, and not enough iron to bond with it. Then things started dying. See, to a lot of anaerobic organisms, oxygen is incredibly deadly. And now there were billions of cyanobacteria constantly spewing it out. 

(The killers themselves. Look at them. Not an ounce of remorse.)

Long story short, almost everything besides cyanobacteria died. The survivors either adapted to be able to live with oxygen, or went and lived in places without it, like underground or in sulfur vents (those guys are still around today!). The cyanobacteria were literally so successful that they changed the chemical makeup of the atmosphere. This also led to a decrease in greenhouse gases and started the longest ice age the world has ever seen. Go cyanobacteria!

Sources: (x) (x)

Think near-boiling water is too hot to support life? Think again. The geysers and hot springs of Yellowstone National Park host an array of thermophillic, or heat-loving, microorganisms that can tolerate temperatures as high as 175 degrees Fahrenheit. These bacteria, along with other microorganisms like archaea, create the vivid color palettes of some of Yellowstone’s famed springs and geysers, like the Grand Prismatic Spring pictured here.

The blue center is the heart of the spring, where nearly boiling water makes it impossible for anything to survive, resulting in a startlingly blue hue. As the temperature dips farther out from the hot spring’s superheated center, though, more and more kinds of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms are able to endure. The different rings of color emanating from the steaming epicenter represent different microbial communities that call the spring home.

The most heat-tolerant cyanobacteria dominate the still-extreme temperatures in the yellow-colored ring, while the outer, orange layer hosts an array of organisms that can’t stand the heat quite as well as their neighbors. The colors of these rings also change in response to the time of year and other environmental factors. The cooler outer rings, meanwhile, form ecosystems of their own, hosting flies, mites, spiders, and other animals. Ephydrid flies feast on the bacterial communities and lay their eggs there, while predators like wolf spiders and parasites such as mites are drawn here because of the presence of the flies.

Find out about more amazing species thriving in exceptional environments in the special exhibition Life at the Limits, open now through January 2016. 

Fish Food Friday: Spirulina

Name: Spirulina Arthrospira
Brand: any
Price: varies, although not cheap
Type: Tablet or powder
Shelf life: ~6 months
Ingredients: 100% Spirulina Arthrospira

Introduction: Spirulina is a fantastic supplement for your fish (and even yourself!) found in arguably small amounts in a lot of fish food. I personally buy 100% pure spirulina tablets and use those alongside my regular feeding regimen because the fish love them.

Keep reading

My brother and I have been at the passport office for a couple hours now and - as a biology major and geology major respectively - we’ve come to the conclusion that naturally occurring kyber crystals are the product of midichlorian biomineralization which produces a Force-attuned crystal lattice that houses the midichlorians. While kyber crystals could possibly be accretionary structures - such as the stromatolites formed by Archean cyanobacteria - the absence of layering suggests otherwise, and it is more likely that kyber is formed in a more continuous matter, resembling the silica cell walls of diatoms. Similar to how diatoms form colonial structures, midichlorians develop interlocking crystalline structures that result in the larger kyber crystal, with varying impurities resulting in the different colored crystals. That being said, The Phantom Menace is still the second-worst Star Wars film, and Alderan was blown up using plankton.

Before you even ask, this is indeed a real image of Earth! In August 2015 a massive bloom of cyanobacteria - more than 100 square kilometers - was seen in the Baltic Sea. Cyanobacteria are a type of marine bacteria that capture and store solar energy through photosynthesis. While some are toxic to humans and animals, large blooms can cause an oxygen-depleted dead zone where other organisms cannot survive. Scientists believe that blooms are more likely to form in the presence agricultural and industrial run-off or from cruise ships that provide excessive nutrients for the bacteria through the dumping of sewage.

Learn more about our new book here:

Source imagery: NASA

My new 30 gallon :) so far all that’s in it is my two platies and the Bolivian ram it came with. The lfs thankfully took the angelfish and the two mollies and my friend is probably going to take the ram once I’m comfortable with her getting transported again.
It was obvious they didn’t clean this tank at all, everything was covered in Cyanobacteria and the fish looked awful.


Extracting the green stuff in plants: Chlorophyll 

Chlorophyll  is a term used for several closely related green pigments found in cyanobacteria and the chloroplasts of algae andplants. Its name is derived from the Greek words χλωρός, chloros (“green”) and φύλλον, phyllon (“leaf”). 

Chlorophyll is an extremely important bio molecule, critical in photosynthesis, which allows plants to absorb energy from light. Chlorophyll absorbs light most strongly in the blue portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, followed by the red portion. Conversely, it is a poor absorbent of green and near-green portions of the spectrum, hence the green color of chlorophyll-containing tissues.

One way of extracting Chlorophyll is by ethanol extraction (the safest). Plant material is slightly boiled in ethanol for a few moments and then filtered to reveal the green stuff extracted from your other green stuff. Chlorophyll is also fluorescent giving off a Red-ish color under UV light.

Giffed by: rudescience  From: this video