Introduction to Types of Bacteria

Currently, bacteria are referred to as one of the oldest types of life on earth. Even though the majority of bacteria make humans sick, they have an everlasting, mutual relationship with humans and are incredibly vital for human survival on the planet. However, since the beginning, life has evolved into a myriad of life forms over many millennia. To support this fact, humans can trace their ancestry back to single-celled organisms. Thus, let us now know all about bacteria, types of bacteria, their evolutionary history, classification, and more. 

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What are Bacteria? 

Bacteria are considered to be microscopic and single-celled organisms that exist in millions, throughout the environment, both inside and outside other organisms. In fact, bacteria are found everywhere around, there are types of bacteria in urine and other parts of the human body as well. A few bacteria are adverse, but the majority of bacteria serve a beneficial purpose. In fact, they support various forms of life, both animals and plants, and are also used in medicinal and industrial processes. Furthermore, bacteria can use primarily organic, and a few inorganic elements as food and some can even survive excessive conditions. 

When it comes to bacteria classification, bacteria are classified into fixed major groups based on their fundamental shapes: rod, spherical, comma, spiral, or corkscrew. Most importantly, bacteria are present in each habitat on Earth-like soil, oceans, rock, and even arctic snow.

Evolution of Bacteria

It’s a proven fact that bacteria have existed from exceptionally early in the history of life on Earth. There are bacteria fossils detected in rocks dating from around the Devonian Period (419.2 million to 358.9 million years ago). Moreover, there are valid arguments that bacteria have been present since the early Precambrian time, which is about 3.5 billion years ago.

Besides, bacteria and archaea were the most common types of organisms on Earth for about 3 billion years as multicellular eukaryotes did not emerge until around 1.6-2 billion years ago. Hence, bacteria have had a lot of time to adapt to their ever-changing environments, which lead to several descendant forms. All in all, the evolution of bacteria extensively refers to the heritable genetic changes that a bacterium collects throughout its life. It can surface from adaptations in response to various environmental changes or the immune response of the host. Due to their short generation times and massive population sizes, bacteria can evolve swiftly. 

Characteristics of Bacteria

As we already know, bacteria are single-celled organisms that lack organelles like mitochondria and chloroplasts and don’t have the true nucleus detected in eukaryotic cells. Rather, their DNA, a double-strand that is consistent and circular, is placed in a nucleoid. The nucleoid is an unevenly shaped region that doesn’t have a nuclear membrane. 

Most importantly, bacteria also have a cell wall and a cell membrane usually made of peptidoglycan. Collectively, the cell wall and cell membrane are considered the cell envelope, and thus, several bacteria require a cell wall to survive.

When it comes to reproduction happens through binary fission, which is the breakdown of a bacterial cell after it reaches a particular size. Generally, bacteria reproduce asexually, so the two daughter cells that result from binary fission have the same DNA as the parent cells. Although, a few bacteria can also exchange genetic material among each other in a process called horizontal gene transfer. It includes two already existing bacteria, which are not a type of transmission from parent to child.

Types of Bacteria

There are multiple types of bacteria based on shape. All in all, there are several variations within every shape group. Let’s know all about these bacteria types: 

  • Spherical-shaped: This kind of bacteria that is spherical or elliptical in shape is known as cocci. Most cocci stay attached after binary fission, regardless of how separate cells have been formed. For instance, diplococci are cocci in pairs, streptococci are chains, and staphylococci are bunches of various cocci. Furthermore, tetrads are square arrangements of four cocci, while sarcinae are cubes of eight cocci. 

  • Rod-shaped: These bacteria types are widely referred to as bacilli (singular bacillus). A few rod-shaped bacteria are curved, which are called vibrio. A few examples of rod-shaped are Bacillus anthracis (B. anthracis) or anthrax. 

  • Spiral-shaped: As the name suggests, these types of bacteria are spiral-shaped. Moreover, they are also known as spirilla (singular spirillum), which are thick and tough spirals. If their coil is exceptionally tight, they are called spirochetes which are quite thin and flexible. Lastly, Vibrios are comma-shaped rods with tiny twists. 

Thus, bacteria can be found in other shapes like filamentous (long and thin), star-shaped, square, and stalked, making the list types of bacteria quite long. 

Nutritional Types of Bacteria

Based on the energy source, organisms are appointed as: 

  • Phototrophs

The organisms which can use light as an energy medium are called phototrophs. Such bacteria obtain energy through light. 

  • Chemotrophs

These kinds of bacteria acquire energy from various chemical elements and can’t carry out photosynthesis.

Based on the electron source, organisms are appointed as:  

  • Lithotrophs

Most organisms can utilize lowered organic compounds as electron donors and are referred to as Lithotrophs. Furthermore, they can also be Photolithotrops and Chemolithotrophs. 

  • Organotrophs

A few organisms can utilize organic compounds as electron donors and are known as Organotrophs. Moreover, they can be Photoorganotrophs and Chemoorganotrophs.

Examples of Bacteria

Lactobacillus acidophilus is one of the common types of bacteria in the human body, shaped like bacillus and naturally found in the intestines and vagina, protecting against dangerous bacteria. Furthermore, it’s a probiotic, a bacterium detected in specific foods such as yogurt and various other fermented foods that are eaten to help soak up nutrients and recharge the body’s supply of ‘good’ bacteria. 

Another common example of bacteria species is Escherichia coli. It’s also a bacillus-shaped bacteria found naturally in the intestines of various animals, including humans, where it generates vitamin K and b-complex vitamins. These types of bacteria in urine can affect the urethra, bladder, vagina, or kidneys. It’s also usually utilized in lab research as it reproduces rapidly and is hardy. 

Thus, now you know the common types of bacteria names along with their evolution and characteristics. 

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FAQs on Types of Bacteria

1. What do bacteria mostly depend on?

Ans: Even though different kinds of bacteria have varied diets, they all need nutrients to offer energy. Most importantly, energy is required to fuel work within the cell. Most bacteria utilize nitrogen, carbon, sulfur, or phosphorus from their nutrient medium to generate energy. 

2. Why do humans require bacteria? 

Ans: Humans could not survive without all the bacteria living on and inside us. Moreover, they act as a major part of our immune system, digesting foods like dairy so that humans can’t crumble and offer nutrients and minerals necessary for survival. 

3. Do bacteria require food? 

Ans: Bacteria require food to grow, just like any other living organism does. So, if you have food, you could also have bacterial development. In fact, bacteria enjoy foods that are neutral to somewhat acidic. They will not grow in extremely acidic foods such as vinegar and lemons but will grow efficiently in vegetables, meat, and a few fruits. 

4. What temperature do bacteria need to grow? 

Ans: A few bacteria thrive in excessive cold or heat, even though others can survive under highly acidic or highly salty circumstances. Nearly all bacteria that lead to disease develop quicker in the temperature ranging from 41 to 135 degrees F, referred to as the danger zone.  

5. What are good bacteria known as? 

Ans: Probiotics are typically live bacteria and yeasts that are good for humans, particularly your digestive system. Humans typically consider these as germs that result in diseases. However, your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Thus, probiotics are mainly appointed into the category of ‘good’ or ‘helpful’ bacteria because they help maintain your gut's health.

6. How much bacteria is found in tap water?

Ans: Tap water is brimming with bacteria regardless of rigorous filtering and disinfection that happens in the majority of developed countries in the world. According to researchers, it was disclosed that a glass of drinking water includes ten million bacteria that are not harmful to humans and work on improving the water quality. 

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