Airdate: Feb 05, 2004
Scientist: Dr. J. Mark Dangerfield
Soil Litter - Unidentified Species
Biology's latest frontier is as close as your own backyard.
ambience: backyard, outdoors, woodthrush
You don't need to travel to the rainforests of the Amazon to discover a new species. Take a walk in a local park and there might be unidentified creatures squirming around right beneath your feet. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Dr. Mark Dangerfield is a soil scientist at MacQuarie University in New South Wales, Australia. He tells us what you might expect to find in a teaspoon of soil from your own backyard.
"If you took your teaspoon of soil and looked under a powerful microscope you would see all sorts of things crawling around - tiny amoebae, which are microscopic organisms that move around and eat that microbial soup! You will find nematodes that are wriggling around in the soil. You will find mites that are running around chasing those nematodes trying to eat them. You'll see all sorts of things and the wonderful thing about it is they're all shapes and sizes, they're all different colors, and they really come alive when you look at them down the microscope."
Soil biologists believe that they've identified only a small percentage of life which could exist in the world's soil layer. It's one of Biology's open frontiers.
"When you pick up a handful of soil anywhere, whether it's in your backyard or in, in a forest - if you look at it closely enough, there will be organisms there that we've never seen before, especially microbial organisms. We know very little about these things. But you might also find some larger organisms no one's actually seen before or described before. Once you get a bit bigger, once you start going towards things like millipedes and wood lice and spiders, it's maybe a bit harder to find them, but you can still find stuff that we don't know anything about."
Please visit our website at pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.