The Hidden Ecology

There is a hidden world that is invisible to the human eye and plays a very important role in all organisms’ survival. This hidden ecology is made up of microbes. Microbes are microorganisms are essential to all life on earth. There are six main microbes which are bacteria, viruses, archaea, fungi, protozoa, and algae, and they are found everywhere throughout the world. They all have an important role that allows all life on the planet to survive. The two most common microbes that most people are familiar with are bacteria and viruses.

Although bacteria and viruses are microscopic organisms that can exist as unicellular, multicellular, or cell clusters, they can sustain all life as well as capable of destroying it.

Bacteria is the most well-known of microbes and is important to human existence. It is also the most adaptable animal on the earth and can survive virtually anywhere on earth. Still, the ideal habitat for bacteria is a warm, moist, protein-rich environment that is pH neutral or low acid.

Yet, they can exist in an extreme environment such as frigid temperatures of Antarctica or the intense heat of a volcano.

Nonetheless, humans cannot live without bacteria. There are numerous ways that bacteria benefit humans, plants, and other animals. Its most important role in nature is to decompose dead plant and animal matter into simpler substances so it can be consumed. This decomposition is the beginning of the food chain which maintains all living organisms. Besides the food chain, bacteria are vital for converting nitrogen as well as other nutrients that allow plants to use as food to promote plant growth.

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Without plants, no complex life could exist on earth because plants make oxygen from they convert carbon dioxide from animals including humans. Plants and animals are interdependent upon one another for survival. However, without bacteria, no plants could not exist and all complex life would end as we know it. Besides decomposition, they also aid in human digestion. Outside of the human body, bacteria are beneficial in making medicines, cleaning up the environment, and possibly making alternative biofuels.

Conversely, bacteria can be more lethal than a great white shark to an unaware surfer. While approximately 99% of all bacteria are harmless to humans, the other one percent can be extremely dangerous. There many bacteria-based diseases that have led to countless human deaths. Some of the most dangerous bacteria-based diseases to humans are Bubonic Plague, Tuberculosis, Syphilis, Anthrax, Salmonellosis, and Cholera. The world’s largest pandemic that causes the greatest loss of human life was a bacteria-based disease called the Bubonic Plague. The Bubonic Plague or Black Death killed over 50 million people from 1346 to 1353. The strand of bacteria that caused this devastating loss of life was called Yersinia pestis. Generally, bacteria harm their host by creating toxins which harmful to the human body and infections. Currently, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), estimates that 33,000 people still die every year due to infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The second most common microbe is viruses. Viruses are microscopic parasites that have no cell nucleus and can only reproduce itself inside the cells of its living hosts. They normally only have one or two strands of DNA or RNA and are covered with a protective coat of protein called the capsid. A capsid is the protective shell of protein. Consequently, a typical virus can only survive for seven days outside of a host cell in an indoor environment. Nevertheless, influenza viruses thrive in cold temperatures and dry climates while other viruses prefer warmer environments.

Viruses can be beneficial to humans because they can be engineered to find potential cures for human diseases such as cancer, correct genetic disorders, and immunizations. Viruses also can be beneficial in the plant world as well. They enable the plants to become more drought or cold tolerant. Thus making the plant more resilient and increases the plant’s ability to survive harsher climate conditions.

Although viruses can be helpful, they also can be very extremely dangerous to humans, plants, and animals. Historically, the three deadliest viral diseases were smallpox which has been estimated to kill at least 300 million people, the Influenza outbreak of 1918 or the “Spanish Flu” which was estimated to kill up to 50 million people, and the AIDS epidemic which has been estimated to have killed more 35 million people. Now the current most dangerous viral diseases are Ebola, Yellow Fever, Rotavirus, and the Marburg virus.

Bacteria and viruses share four main similarities. The first similarity is both are microscopic and can only be seen with a microscope. The second similarity is that they both can be beneficial to the earth’s ecological system. Bacteria helps start the food chain by decomposing dead animal and planter matter. The third similarity is how both are spread the ways. For example, both can be spread by cough and squeezing, contaminated food or surfaces, and contact with an infected person. The fourth and most concerning similarity is both are capable of destroying life as we know it. Billions of people, plants, and animals across the planet have lost their lives since the beginning of life due to bacterial and viral-based diseases.

However, bacteria and viruses have three main distinctions. The first major distinction between bacteria and viruses is that bacteria are living cells that can reproduce themselves independently while viruses are made up of nonliving particles. The second major distinction between bacteria and viruses is that bacteria can thrive within a host or outside of a host while viruses can only thrive within a host. The third major distinction between bacteria and viruses are most bacterial illness can be treated with antibiotics whereas, in most viral illness cases, you have to wait for your immune system to fight off the virus.

In conclusion, bacteria and viruses make it possible to sustain life on this planet. Nonetheless, they are capable of destroying all on the planet because of harmful bacterial and viral diseases. Important ecological processes such as the nitrogen cycle are only made possible because of the existence of bacteria. Nitrogen is an essential component of the earth’s life cycle. On the other hand, even viruses can protect us from some types of harmful bacteria. In summary, the unseen world of microbes or germs is very vital to the continued existence of all life on the planet.

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The Hidden Ecology. (2019, Nov 28). Retrieved from

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