by Piter Kehoma Boll
After more than a hundred Friday Fellows, there is still one group with no representatives here: the archaeans. But this is going to change today with the indroduction of our first Friday Fellow archaean, and it is a very interesting one for sure.
Scientifically known as Haloquadratum walsbyi, it is sometimes called Walsby’s Square Haloarchaeon and, as its name suggest, it has an unusual square shape.
This interesting archaean was discovered in 1980 by Anthony Edward Walsby in brine ponds of the Sinai Peninsula. It was later discovered in several other lakes with high concentrations of salt around the world and was first cultivated in the laboratory in 2004, but only in 2007 it was formally described and received a binomial name.
The square cells of the Walsby’s square haloarchaeon are very thin, about 0.2 µm thick, and measure about 2 µm on each side. They grow very slowly, forming a thin sheet over a surface, the largest recorded sheet measuring 40 × 40 µm. If the growing conditions are not ideal, the cells deteriorate to a ragged square or other shapeless flat form.
Inside the cells, the Walsby’s square haloarchaeon has small gas vesicles that look like small crystals. They help the cell remain at the surface of the very salty water they inhabit. In order to survive, this archaean needs water with a concentration of salt of at least 14%, but the conditions become ideal only above 23%.
Although we know some interesting things about this species, there is still much more to learn. Who knows what mysteries this small square-shaped creature is hiding from us?
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Bolhuis, H.; Poele, E. M. t.; Rodriguez-Valera, F. (2004) Isolation and cultivation of Walsby’s square archaeon. Environmental Microbiology 6(12): 1287–1291.
Burns, D. G.; Janssen, P. H.; Itoh, T.; Kamekura, M.; Li, Z.; Jensen, G.; Rodríguez-Valera, F.; Bolhuis, H.; Dyall-Smith, M. L. (2007) Haloquadratum walsbyi gen. nov., sp. nov., the square haloarchaeon of Walsby, isolated from saltern crystallizers in Australia and Spain. International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology 57: 387–392.