University of Akureyri

12/20/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 12/20/2023 05:39

Pseudomonas syringae most common in lichens in Iceland per Capita

Again, Iceland is on top!

When I was young, I used to look up to the sky and the clouds would form all kinds of figures and paint pictures on the sky. I imagined myself as a major cloud scientist in the future and little did, I know that today I would be researching the bacteria that are one of the responsible for the cloud's formation.

You might not hear a lot about a bacterium with the tricky name Pseudomonas syringae but this tiny microbe is a part of our clouds and ice all over the world! Next time you are in a bar with your friends you can tell that this Pseudomona something is used for the creation of artificial snow, just to let them all be shocked about your abundant knowledge!

This bacterium is present all over the world, something expected since you can find it on clouds, and it moves around by wind and water. Hence, Oddur Vilhelmsson from University of Akureyri (UNAK) and Cindy Morris from INRAE in France, were not surprised to find Pseudomonas syringae to occur quite commonly in Iceland, although they were surprised to find considerable differences in the Icelandic populations compared to those thus far found elsewhere around the globe. Yet another unique little twist to Iceland's fascinating nature! For those who are craving more information you can read this arcticle.


Based on their previous molecular evidence that Pseudomonas syringae might be present some Icelandic lichens, Oddur and Auður Sigurbjörnsdóttir, assistant professor from UNAK, created a project for their new PhD student. That student was the cloud dreamer, me, Natalia Ramirez, and I get to study this bacterium in Iceland but with a different approach. This time, we will try to find the bacteria in lichens- yep, that organisms that looks sometimes dead but that are all over. They, as well as everything that surrounds us, also contain lots of microbes. So, for that I and the rest of the team went all over Iceland in all kinds of Icelandic weather collecting a big variety of lichens.

We found Pseudomonas syringae in lichens for the first time, another reason that makes Iceland special because this was done in other countries without success. And you might be thinking that these sometimes-aggressive bacteria were maybe affecting the lichens where they were hosted. Well, actually all lichen looked perfectly healthy, and the scientists think that it might be even good for lichens to have the presence of this bacteria on them.

But the shocking part is that it was found only in one genus of lichen called Peltigera. The fact that this bacterium was only found in one genus opens a lot of questions for further studies, are other lichens not welcoming Pseudomonas syringae? Or is it the opposite and the Peltigera lichen gives something to the bacteria that help them for their survival? And the most important one, is Iceland the winner when it comes to cloud formation? If you like what you read and you want to know more, then read this!

PS: Please do care about lichens as they grow extremely slow and are a part of our clouds!