. Earth Science News .

Study reveals how microbes travel the Earth on the wind
by Staff Writers
London, UK (SPX) Aug 23, 2011

File image.

Scientists from the UK and Switzerland have investigated the remarkable distance that microorganisms may be able to blow between continents, raising questions about their potential to colonise new lands and also potentially to spread diseases.

The researchers from Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) the University of Neuchatel published their results in the Journal of Biogeography this month. They used large computer models of the Earth's atmosphere to study how widely microbes could be dispersed.

LJMU's Dr Dave Wilkinson led the team along with Symeon Koumoutsaris, from the International Space Science Institute in Bern, who modified computer models which were designed for studying the dispersal of dust particles.

They looked at what would happen if they released virtual microbes from both the southern tip of South America and also from Mexico. Once airborne, microbes of 0.02mm in diameter and below can easily travel thousands of kilometres.

Dr Dave Wilkinson, LJMU School of Natural Science and Psychology, explained: "Microbes less than 0.009 mm across went as far as Australia! These sizes would include microbes such as bacteria and many amoebae and also some fungal spores. We found that for smaller microbes, once airborne, dispersal is remarkably successful over a 1-year period.

"The most striking results are the extensive within-hemisphere distribution of small virtual microbes and the lack of dispersal between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres during the year-long time-scale of our simulations.

What our models show is that only the smallest microbes travel easily between continents.

"The larger ones (i.e. Larger than 20 m but still 500 times smaller than the 1mm threshold previously believed to separate the "cosmopolitan organisms" from those with potential biogeographies) cannot easily travel between continents on the time span of a single year.

"This is an important result as it very significantly increases the potential for microbial diversity."

Most microbes carried by wind are likely to be harmless, but outbreaks of certain disease such as meningitis in the Sahel region of Africa and foot and mouth disease have been linked to airborne microbes in the past.

"We stress that our model looks at only one aspect of microbial dispersal - namely airborne transport to a new site. Once a microbe arrives, it clearly needs to reproduce, including potentially competing with microbes already at that location," Dr Wilkinson concluded.

"Given the ease with which the smaller microbes disperse in our model it is possible that this (rather than dispersal itself) may be the rate-limiting step in many cases of microbial range expansion and this topic should form the topic for future research in this area."

Related Links
Darwin Today At TerraDaily.com

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries

. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Poached baby mountain gorilla doing well: vet
Musanze, Rwanda (AFP) Aug 22, 2011
A highly-endangered mountain gorilla infant rescued from poachers earlier this month is recovering well according to officials with the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project. "She was clearly sick and traumatized when we found her," Jan Ramer, MGVP veterinary manager, told AFP Monday. "But now she seems healthy. She is comfortable with her care givers and shes getting more and more confident." ... read more

NIST tests help ensure reliable wireless alarm beacons for first responders

Japan to pick new PM next week: ruling party

Biden praises Japan's courage after tsunami

New tool allows first responders to visualize post-event disaster environments

New theory may shed light on dynamics of large-polymer liquids

Antennas in your clothes? New design could pave the way

Sony remodels PlayStation Home

Controlling magnetism with electric fields

Australia's Coral Sea 'biodiversity hotspot': study

Water Week starts with calls for better urban water

Office of Naval Research taking on challenges of unmanned underwater vehicles

Soft Coral Builds Strong Reefs

Thawing Permafrost Could Accelerate Climate Change By Century End

Denmark moves forward on North Pole claim

UCI researchers chart long-shrouded glacial reaches of Antarctica

'Happy' Bhutan alarmed by Himalayan climate change

Peru goes slow on uprooting coca crops

Pastoralism offer best hope for combating African dryland droughts

Comparing soybean production methods

Nitrogen in the soil cleans the air

Hurricane Irene on course for collision with US east coast

Floods cause misery in Bangladesh

Rare quake jolts eastern US, sparks evacuations

Hurricane Irene bears down on Dom. Republic, Haiti

Guinea-Bissau says military reform requires funding

Mystery fire fuels Zimbabwe power struggle

Top Zimbabwe military officer killed in blaze

Zimbabwe powerbroker, ex-defence chief Mujuru dies in blaze

Study: Human ancestors early seafarers

Narcissism may benefit the young, researchers report; but older adults? Not so much

Study: Some are born with math ability

Six Million Years of African Savanna

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2011 - Space Media Network. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement