Thursday, July 12, 2007

Blinding You With Science: Microbes in the Mojave

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(photo by some dude named Eric Moore)

I always assumed that the cracks in desert soil were caused by high temperatures and drought. Nope! According to USC's own Dr. Kenneth Nealson, these cracks are caused by gas released from microbes called cyanobacteria -- organisms some scientists believe to be the earliest common ancestor for every species on earth.

Thanks to The History Channel's series "The Universe," I learned that cyanobacteria -- which may have been imported to the Earth by comets in the planet's early formation -- survived the early planet's scorching temperatures to eat up sunlight and multiply through photosynthesis. Thus began the chain of evolution that led to you and me.

Because cyanobacteria can survive extremely high temperatures, they thrive in desert soil. As one cheeky scientist put it -- our ancestors were "the scum of the earth."

That's about right.

1 comment:

The Frustrated Dinosaur said...

No, no, no, those scientists are all wrong. God created the universe and those cracks are out in the desert because God thought they'd look pretty.