EAST LANSING: New research sheds light on how microorganisms are able to 'hibernate' for long periods of time. This unique ability affects entire ecosystems on Earth, and could have implications for the transport of organisms between planets.
It’s commonly known, at least among microbiologists, that microbes have an additional option to living or dying - dormancy. What isn’t known, however, is how large numbers of dormant microorganisms affect the natural environments when they act as microbial seed banks.
“Only a tiny fraction is metabolically active at any given time,” said lead author Jay Lennon, who is affiliated with Michigan State University’s (MSU) Kellogg Biological Station and MSU’s AgBioResearch. “How would our environment be altered, in terms of carbon emissions, nutrient cycling and greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide, by dramatic increases or decreases in the dormancy of microbes?”