The word “Bacteria” is often associated with disease, but only a few kinds of Bacteria cause problems for humans. The other thousands of bacteria, although all simple organisms, play a complex role in Earth’s ecosystems. In fact, Cyanobacteria were responsible for the oxygenation of our atmosphere. They were the first photosynthesizers, converting light energy into oxygen more than 2.4 billion years ago. Without Bacteria, in particular Cyanobacteria, humans would not be here.
While some Bacteria perform photosynthesis, others depend on chemical energy that is released when compounds like hydrogen or sulfur react with oxygen. This energy is then used to convert carbon dioxide into biomass (chemosynthesis). For example, Thermus sp. may also be able to oxidize arsenic into a less toxic form.
Individual Bacteria may be rod or sphere shaped, but they often join end to end to form long strands called filaments. These strands help bind thermophilic mats, forming a vast community or miniecosystem. Other groups of Bacteria form layered structures resembling tiny towers, which can trap sand and other organic materials.
Microscopic plants and animals live in the extreme environments of Yellowstone's hydrothermal features.
Thermophilic communities are very diverse, depending on the microbes living there, the pH, and the water temperature.
Last updated: October 15, 2020