Without microbes there’d be no life on Earth. In fact microbes have the largest population of all living organisms on our planet. You have billions on each fingertip right now.

A cluster of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria magnified 10,000 times that is generally found in the intestines.

A cluster of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria magnified 10,000 times that is generally found in the intestines. Most strains are beneficial but a few can cause food poisoning (photo source)

With the Ebola outbreak in West Africa there’s a need to see microbes in a larger light. Microbes as a whole relate very closely to the subject of ‘life’. And in the next few posts on The Explanation I’ll give you some insights and especially show how they fit into the puzzle as we proceed with the Inventory of the Universe.

Microbes can be found everywhere, from the freezing cold undersides of an Arctic iceberg to the over 400 degree centigrade hydrothermal vents, surging between tectonic plates 5 kilometers deep in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

True, there are negative sides to microbes, the main one being the cause of diseases and we’re especially focused on Ebola virus in West Africa. The first outbreak occurred in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) beside the Ebola River in 1976 and there have been about half a dozen epidemics since then of which this 2014 episode is the worst.

In this post I want to go back to the basics of microorganisms because sometimes we think of life wrong side up.

Example: in the food chain the tiniest phytoplankton survive on microbial life and get eaten by a shellfish which gets eaten by a duck which gets eaten by an eagle. Termites which feast on wood digested by various microbes get eaten by aardvarks which get eaten by pythons which can get eaten by hyenas. And what happens to eagles and hyenas, these top of the chain predators? They end up finally getting devoured by microbes. And the circle of life goes around and around.

Microbes are the biggest eaters. They literally consume anything and everything that comes their way. Without them our planet would be a stinky putrefying graveyard of dead beings and objects. When found, the Titanic was covered with colonies of bacteria.

Benefits of Microbes

  • From leaves, to rotting trees, to animal carcasses, to toilet sewage and oil spills they get rid of it all.
  • They actually produce half the oxygen we breathe
  • They are the base of the food chain of all life on Earth
  • Microbes are common pest-killers in gardens
  • Used to make antibiotics to heal illness
  • Help plant roots take up nitrogen from the soil
  • Our kitchens and cooking wouldn’t exist without them
    • They make bread rise
    • Produce blue cheese and Gorgonzola…
    • Turn milk into yoghurt
    • Ferment wine and beer

We shall discuss the 4 types of microbes: Bacteria – Viruses – Fungi – Archaea.

Microbes are the smallest living microorganisms and they integrate the puzzle of life perfectly as The Explanation will underscore in future blog posts. Add your email to the list for future notifications. What other benefits come from microorganisms? Your comments are welcome below.

Think about this:

  • Bacteria and Viruses: what’s the difference and is it a big deal?
  • Why do pathogenic Bacteria and Viruses flare up from time to time?

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