Morphological and Physiological Diversity

Reference work entry


Over 5,000 species and nearly 1,000 genera of isolated prokaryotes were tabulated as of 1999 (Garrity and Holt 2000). Moreover, studies examining 16S ribosomal DNA in natural populations have provided convincing evidence that these cultured organisms are just the “tip of the iceberg” with several entire phyla/divisions having no or few cultured representatives (Hugenholtz et al. 1998). Prokaryotic diversity is an immensely valuable resource—not only as a source of an almost infinite variety of metabolic capabilities, enzymes, and genes, but also as a veritable cornucopia of strategies for dealing with the world. If what we wish to understand is not only how an organism operates but also how what it does enables it to deal with an extremely variable and occasionally hostile environment, then the study of microbial diversity truly holds the answers.


Electron Acceptor Fruiting Body Photosynthetic Bacterium Calvin Cycle Purple Bacterium 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MicrobiologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Department of MicrobiologyUniversity of Minnesota Medical SchoolMinneapolisUSA

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