Never-before-seen bacterium found at Arnold Arboretum

Monday, August 3, 2020 - 11:50 in Physics & Chemistry

Researchers have discovered new life — a never-before-seen bacterium — in a novel environment, one created by humans and spreading rapidly around the globe, at Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum. The new species is marked by the presence of colorful carotenoid pigments and an affinity for solar radiation, high temperatures, limited nutrients, and desiccation. That combination may be tough to find in lush New England, but is common on solar panels like those at the Arboretum’s Hunnewell Building, where it was discovered. Arboretum Director William “Ned” Friedman said the find is a reminder that, even as humans dominate nature to an unprecedented extent, natural processes still continue in seemingly unnatural environments, like the solar panels that provide about a third of the Arboretum’s power. “Every time we throw up panels, every time we create new surfaces, not only are there things that can exploit them — like this new species — but you shouldn’t...

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