Throw away that antibacterial soap, no use fighting it anymore. Scientists have found
bacteria are perfectly happy living in the clouds!
Clouds are pretty, and it’s fun to imagine what the shapes are. That one's a dinosaur
holding a picnic basket! That one's a box with… a lid. And they're both filled to
the brim with bacteria! Bacteria are literally everywhere, on every surface of everything
all the time. I mean, it's pretty obvious that bacteria can live in the air down here,
but they're tiny after all and thus can be easily picked up by the wind. Full disclosure,
I never even thought about this, but bacteria have been found almost 25 miles up and all
OVER in the clouds! Scientists have found bacteria living above rainforests and deserts,
mountains and seas, even inside hail and snow!
Before you freak out, that's not actually a bad thing; they might help in cloud formation,
and can even live in lightning-prone storm clouds to encourage rain or hail. Researchers
have found as many organisms in parts of the sky as in an average river.
Clouds look pure and pretty, but on the microlevel they're teeming with bacteria, algae, fungi
and other tiny plants and animals. Microorganisms may see clouds as a giant transportation system,
growing and multiplying so the colony can populate a new area, quote "piggybacking on
the hydrological cycle," said one scientist.
But, a new study in Environmental Science and Technology has found bacteria are quite
happy to live in the upper atmosphere. They're not just looking to populate new areas alone!
They're okay with this crazy fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants life!
This study was specifically done on a species of bacillus bacteria, in the Auvergne region
of France. Bacteria have been collected from the sky since the 1920s, so they probably
flew up and collected samples and brought them back to Earth for testing. But, somewhat
unexpectedly, the researchers found these cloud-borne microorganisms weren't dormant
and floating aimlessly, but were actively consuming saccharides, or sugars, which are
also found in that white puffy stuff! The sugars are blown there by the wind too; originating
from plants and microorganisms on the ground.
The bacteria use those sugars to sustain themselves, but more importantly as building blocks to
create polysaccharide armor which serves to protect the little guys. More research is
needed, but it appears the microbes have evolved to fight the stronger UV rays which reach
the clouds at high altitude; not to mention the sub zero temperatures. From there, they
multiply, help form clouds, and then rain, hail or snow back to Earth again. Amazing!
There's even bacteria on the Space Station guys. It's inescapable. Are you freaking out?
Bacteria everywhere!!! Or are you shrugging and living with the reality?