Dr Warhol’s Periodic Table of Microbes, The Small Guide to Small Things
93. Np. Neptunomonas
You can’t look at Neptunomonas and not think about King Neptune, SpongeBob SquarePants, and the great voicing done by John O’Hurley and Jeffrey Tambor. Well, maybe you can, but I can’t. From the name, you can tell that Neptunomonas is a marine organism, and at the moment there are 7 recognized species.
As you know by now, recurring themes in this Periodic Table are that 1) Microbes are tougher than you; 2) Microbes can live anywhere. Neptunomonas is no exception, as it was first discovered in a highly toxic superfund site in Puget Sound happily munching away amid creosote and coal tar contaminated soil and sediment. Creosote is a tarry preservative that gives old-fashioned fishing piers their characteristic scent, in addition to cut bait. More essential trivia is that the general manager of the creosote company went down on the Titanic, and that their treated timbers were used in building the Panama Canal.
The type species (Neptunomonas napthovorans) was first noted to consume naphthalene, the white crystalline solid better known as the stinky stuff in moth balls. Think about that, these microbes eat moth balls. Other species have been isolated in Antarctica (Neptunomonas antarctica), a dead ark clam in South Korea (Neptunomonas concharum) (OK, ark clams are cool because one species has hemoglobin and red blood, unlike other clams), and as a symbiotic microbe (Neptunomonas japonicus) of the tube worm Osedax japonicus that was living on or near the carcass of a dead sperm whale, all of which were unknown until 2006. The symbiotic microbes enable the worms to eat whale bones. And if that’s not strange enough, yet another species (Neptunomonas phycophila) is a triple symbiont, as it is a symbiont of an algal symbiont (Symbiodinium) of the sea anemone (Aiptasia tagetes).
Neptunomonas cells are Gram negative rods typically measuring around 0.7 to 0.9 microns wide by 2 to 3 microns long.
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