Microbial Life

Loki: Chapter 5

     The single-celled life on Loki is divided into three types. The first type is the chemosynthetic bacteria. These are bacteria that use the heat and hydrogen sulfide released by the volcanic vents to produce hydrocarbons. These are among the most numerous and the most important microbes on the planet, forming the first link in the food chain. These microbes are very similar to the microbes found in deep ocean vents on Earth, since they are adapted to similar environs.

     The next most common microbe-type on Loki is the photosynthesizers. These plants use a purple pigment called rhodo-philobagilocin to store the energy from infra-red radiation to convert carbon dioxide and water to hydrocarbons and oxygen. These bacteria are so numerous on the surface of the planet that they stain the side of Loki facing Thor a purplish-red. These bacteria also exist in much smaller numbers over the volcanic vents on the ocean floor.

     Yet another type of microbe found on the ocean floor is the transformer. This type relates more closely to the protists than the other two types. These single-celled creatures live around the multicellular chemosynthesizers, often in symbiosis with them. They take the sulfur and sulfate ions extruded by the chemosynthesizers and use a set of enzymes to reverse the actions, give off hydrogen sulfide, and then use the extra energy to make carbohydrates and oxygen. The method is effective, as there are very few large chemosynthesizers without colonies of these bacteria inside or around them.

     There are viri in these bacteria. Surprisingly, many viri appear to be able to coexist with one of the types of bacteria, only to violently attack a different type. The viral transfer of DNA appears to have been tailored to the type of metabolism the bacterium or organism possesses. In bacteria that are compatible, the virus may actually help, by increasing the reproduction rate of the bacteria. Such viri would explain the dearth of chemosynthetic bacteria in the upper layer of the hydrosphere.

     There are also a large number of heterotrophic animals. Many of these cannot properly be called microbes, as they are descended from either the notochordates or the arthropods. However, there are enough true microbes to warrant attention. These microbes are very diverse, as they can consume the chemosynthetic bacteria, the transforming protists, or the photosynthetic algaforms. Their method of ingestion allows them to absorb the proteins and carbohydrates, while leaving behind the sulfur and other inedible minerals so often extruded by these microbes.

     Many of the bacteria have shells or walls made of a sulfate ester, or a shell made of a chitin-like material containing extra sulfur ions. These shells provide places to store additional carbohydrates. The shells typically fission when the bacteria divides, growing together in about 10 minutes after the reproduction is finished.




 

Chris Jones
Sat Feb 18 00:31:33 MST 1995