Hawaii State Microbe

In April 2010 a reporter at Science magazine asked a UH Department of Microbiology professor to suggest a State Microbe for Hawaii. This stemmed from an article1 in the New York Times, describing Wisconsin's effort to have Lactococcus lactis designated the official microbe of the State of Wisconsin. The request asked for the microbe's scientific name, and "...a brief explanation of why it would make a good state microbe."

We know that many species are found only in Hawaii, but we generally refer only to plants and animals in this context. Whether or not particular microbes have evolved in or are endemic to Hawaii has not been proven, but microbes isolated in Hawaii have been described as new species according to the accepted rules (e.g., International Code of Nomenclature of Bacteria).

The article suggestting microbes for various states appeared in Science magazine on May 15, 20102. By then, a graduate student in the Department had already set up his own "Official State Microbe for Hawaii" page on a social networking site3.

Although Wisconsin's effort to have an official state microbe ultimately faltered4, Dr. Elio Schaechter (Writer, Small Things Considered) offered 'tongue in cheek' suggestions of microbes that might represent other states: "Nevada could use a bug which is very resistant to radiation... It's called Deinococcus." Dr. Schaechter's other suggestions were: New Jersey (The Garden State) - a Streptomyces (common in soil), and Texas - an oil-degrading Syntrophus sp.

We'd like to open the discussion to others. If you have any suggestions for an Hawaii State Microbe, please let us know. Some background information about the microbe in question would be useful, as would your rationale for suggesting it. If you don't mind we would be happy to post suggestions here. Some examples (in chronological order of their publication) including microbial eukaryotes and of course prokaryotes are included below to start the discussion. Let's have an Hawaii State Microbe!

Please email Dr. Stuart Donachie for more information. donachie@hawaii.edu

Nimbospora octonae

Partial abstract: Nimbospora octonae was collected on drift and intertidal wood in Hawaii and Kauai.

  • Kohlmeyer J (1985) Nimbospora octonae, a new marine ascomycete from Hawaii. Canadian Journal of Botany 63:1122-1125

Prochlorococcus marinus

First isolated in 1988 from the Sargasso Sea, and subsequently described by Chisholm et al. (1992). The most abundant photoautotroph in the ocean between 40°N and 40°S, and by definition around the Hawaiian Archipelago. Said to provide ~40% of the oxygen we breathe, and much of the energy to grow the fish we eat.

  • Chisholm SW, Frankel SL, Goericke R, Olson RJ, Palenik B, Waterbury JB, West-Johnsrud L & Zettler ER (1992) Prochlorococcus marinus nov. gen. nov. sp.: an oxyphototrophic marine prokaryote containing divinyl chlorophyll a and b. Archives of Microbiology 157:297-300

Arenariomyces majusculus, Etheirophora bijubata, E. unijubata, E. blepharospora (syn. Keissleriella blepharospora), and Moana turbinulata

Abstract: An annotated checklist of higher marine fungi from the major Hawaiian Islands (Hawaii, Kauai, Maui, Oahu) includes 39 Ascomycotina, 1 Basidiomycotina and 7 anamorphic fungi. New taxa from intertidal wood are Arenariomyces majusculus sp. nov., Etheirophora bijubata gen. et sp. nov., E. unijubata sp. nov., E. blepharospora comb. nov. (syn. Keissleriella blepharospora), and Moana turbinulata gen. et sp. nov. New records for Hawaii are A. parvulus, Carbosphaerella leptosphaerioides, Corollospora fusca, Halosarpheia marina and Lanspora coronata.

  • Kohlmeyer J & Volkmann-Kohlmeyer B (1989) Hawaiian marine fungi, including two new genera of Ascomycotina. Mycological Research 92:410-421

Idiomarina loihiensis

First isolated from seawater collected on the Loihi submarine volcano off the Big Island of Hawaii, in 1999 (Donachie et al., 2003). Detected since in Antarctic hypersaline lakes and Spanish solar salterns (salt ponds). Likely a typical bacterium in saline, but not necessarily marine habitats. The entire genome was sequenced in the University of Hawaii (Hou et al., 2004). The Latin name translates as 'typical marine bacterium, from Loihi'.

  • Donachie SP, Hou S, Gregory TS, Malahoff A & M Alam (2003) Idiomarina loihiensis, sp. nov., a new halophilic γ-Proteobacterium isolated from the Loihi submarine volcano, Hawai`i. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology 53:1873-1879
  • Hou S, Saw JH, Lee K-S, Freitas TA, Belisle C, Kawarabayasi Y, Donachie SP, Galperin MY, Koonin EV, Makarova KS, Omelchenko MV, Sorokin A, Wolf Y, Li Q, Keum YS, Campbell S, Denery J, Aizawa S-I, Shibata S, Malahoff A & M Alam (2004) Genome sequence of the deep-sea γ-Proteobacterium Idiomarina Ioihiensis reveals amino acid fermentation as source of carbon and energy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 101:18036-18041

Psychroflexus tropicus

First isolated in 2000 from an hypersaline lagoon ('lake') on Laysan Atoll in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands (Donachie et al., 2004). Became the third member of the genus; two earlier members are obligate psychrophiles reported from Antarctic sea-ice. P. tropicus, however, grows up to 42°C. Two more recent members of the genus are mesophiles, from China and Korea. All are orange, form long thin rods, and produce 'coccoid bodies' in cultures over 5 days old. The Latin name translates as 'cold bend (bent rod) of the tropics'.

  • Donachie SP, Bowman JP & M Alam (2004) Psychroflexus tropicus, sp. nov., a new, obligately halophilic CFB group bacterium isolated from an Hawaiian hypersaline lake. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology 54:935-940

Arcobacter halophilus

First isolated in 2000 from an hypersaline lagoon ('lake') on Laysan Atoll in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands (Donachie et al., 2005). Unique among the Arcobacters when described because it was the first obligately halophilic member of the genus. Other members of the genus to that point were non-halophilic, and associated with fowl, etc. A second halophilic species has since been published.

  • Donachie SP, Bowman JP, On SL & M Alam (2005) Arcobacter halophilus sp. nov., the first obligate halophile in the genus Arcobacter. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology 55:1271-1277

Nesiotobacter exalbescens

First isolated in 2000 from an hypersaline lagoon ('lake') on Laysan Atoll in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands (Donachie et al., 2006). Seems to be the most rare of the 'Hawaiian' bacteria thus far, since it remains the only species in the genus established to host it. The Latin name translates as 'rod that becomes white, from an island', and refers to the fading color of maturing colonies.

  • Donachie SP, Bowman JP & M Alam (2006) Nesiotobacter exalbescens gen. nov., sp. nov., a moderately thermophilic alphaproteobacterium from an Hawaiian hypersaline lake. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology 56:563-567

Mariprofundus ferrooxydans

Abstract: On the basis of phylogenetic and physiological data, it is proposed that isolate PV-1T ( = ATCC BAA-1020: JCM 14766) represents the type strain of a novel species in a new genus, Mariprofundus ferrooxydans gen. nov., sp. nov. Furthermore, the strain is the first cultured representative of a new candidatus class of the Proteobacteria that is widely distributed in deep-sea environments, Candidatus ζ (zeta)-Proteobacteria cl. nov.

  • Emerson D, Rentz JA, Lilburn TG, Davis RE, Aldrich H, et al. (2007) A novel lineage of Proteobacteria involved in formation of marine Fe-oxidizing microbial mat communities. PLoS ONE 28:e667. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000667

Sympodiomycopsis lanaiensis

First isolated from driftwood on a Lanai beach (Mahdi et al., 2008). A recent paper describing another Sympodiomycopsis proposes renaming S. lanaiensis as Jaminaea lanaiensis.

  • Mahdi LE, Statzell-Tallman A, Fell JW, Brown MV & SP Donachie (2008) Sympodiomycopsis lanaiensis sp. nov., a basidiomycetous yeast (Ustilaginomycotina: Microstromatales) from marine driftwood in Hawai'i. FEMS Yeast Res 8:1357-1363

1 http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/16/us/16microbe.html?_r=1&ref=science

2 Schenkman L (2010) Random Samples. Science 30th April, 328:553

3 http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=119123328114205

4 http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126370268