The Web of Life (30) Importance of Microbes


We live in a microbial world. ~ American microbiologist Carolyn Bohach

Whereas large life merely inhabits Earth, microbes collectively rule. Plants and animals would not exist without them.

Critical portions of the genomes employed by macroscopic life were contributed by microbes. The genetic unity of life owes to viruses, the busybodies of the microbial world.

A tiny minority of microbes are marauders. While vexatious, even lethal, these microscopic felons have been a formidable force in evolution. Immune systems, which are integral to health, developed to their consummate degree from wars with microbes.

Only microbes make their own food. Plants feed themselves by exploiting microbes as intracellular slaves.

Microbes manage the nitrogen cycle. Only they can fix nitrogen, and so sustain the life of plants.

Microbes degrade cellulose, providing the critical means for recycling dead plant tissue. Fields and forests thrive courtesy of microbes.

All animals rely upon microbes for sustenance. Gut flora eat first and feed their hosts leftovers. They even tell the host what they want to eat, and, being a good host, it obliges.