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Unit Chapters
Genomics
Proteins & Proteomics
Evolution & Phylogenetics
Microbial Diversity
Introduction
Microbes as the First Organisms
The Diversity of Microbial Metabolism
Archaea and Bacteria
The Universal Tree of Life
Studying Unculturable Microbes with PCR
Microbes and the Carbon Cycle
Microbes and the Cycling of Nitrogen
Biofilms
Biofilms Formation and Bacterial Communication
Impact of Biofilms on Humans
Communication Between Bacteria and Eukaryotes
Microbes in Mines
Microbial Leaching of Ores
Coda
Emerging Infectious Diseases
HIV & AIDS
Genetics of Development
Cell Biology & Cancer
Human Evolution
Neurobiology
Biology of Sex & Gender
Biodiversity
Genetically Modified Organisms
"If we look we'll find 'em... the microbes are there. They're these little packages of secrets that are waiting to be opened."

- Anna-Louise Reysenbach


Introduction

Microbes flourish. Inside your gut, in the mucky soil of a marsh, in Antarctic ice, in the hot springs of Yellowstone, in habitats seemingly incompatible with life, microbes flourish.

They were present on Earth 3.5 to 4 billion years ago, and they've been evolving and expanding into new environments ever since. Replicating quickly, exchanging genetic material with each other and with other organisms, bacteria and archaea have become ubiquitous.

Not only are they everywhere, but these tiny organisms also manipulate the environments in which they live. Their presence has driven the development of new ecosystems - some of which allowed for the evolution of more complex organisms. Without microbes, the recycling of essential nutrients on Earth would halt. Microbes communicate; some generate the signals for the formation of metabolically diverse communities. Some use sophisticated signaling to establish complex relationships with higher organisms.

In this unit we will examine examples of the broad diversity of microorganisms and consider their roles in various ecosystems, both natural and man-made. We will also discuss some of the practical applications that derive from the wealth of metabolic diversity that microorganisms possess.

Let's start at the beginning ... three or four billion years ago.

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