• Question: How do you find out about new lifeforms or microbes

    Asked by animals to Anil, Blanka, Cees, Emma, Mike on 29 Jun 2012.
    • Photo: Emma Trantham

      Emma Trantham answered on 29 Jun 2012:

      Hi again animals

      There are quite a few ways we can find out about new lifeforms/microbes.

      The first way is to collect swabs and then plate the swabs out onto special agar plates and see what grows (in fact a group of scientists have been doing that in a project called Belly Button biodiversity – they asked members of the public to swab their bellybuttons and then grew the bugs that were on the swabs. There is a great website with pictures of what they found here: http://www.wildlifeofyourbody.org/ )

      Another way is to look for the nucleic acid sequences (like DNA) that make up life forms. Scientists take a sample, eg. from water and sequence (basically look for and identify) all of the bits of DNA/RNA in it and then compare that to known organisms. If it doesn’t match then they know they have found a new organism. This is a really exciting field at the moment and lots and lots of work is being done to identify all the lifeforms that live on and in us (did you know there are more bacteria in and on your bodies than you have human cells in your body?!)