A microorganism or microbe is an organism that is so small that it is microscopic (invisible to the naked eye). Microorganisms are often illustrated using single-celled, or unicellular, organisms; however, some unicellular protists are visible to the naked eye, and some multicellular species are microscopic.
All unicellular organisms are able to self-reproduce without help of other organisms, unlike viruses.
Microorganisms may be found almost anywhere in the taxonomic structure. Bacteria and archaea are almost always microscopic, as are most protists. Even some fungi, a primarily macroscopic taxon, are microorganisms.
Microorganisms are found everywhere in nature. Even in hostile environments, like the poles, deserts, geysers, rocks, and the deep sea, some types of microorganisms have adapted to the extreme conditions and sustained colonies; these organisms are known as extremophiles. Some extremophiles have been known survive for a prolonged time in a vacuum, and some can be unusually resistant to radiation.
Microorganisms are used in brewing, baking, biotechnology, recycling of other organisms' remains and waste products, and many other processes. They can also be harmful as pathogens when, as parasites, they cause infections.
Microorganisms were probably the first form of life that appeared on Earth. Today they have an important place in all ecosystems and in most higher-order multicellular organisms. For mankind they are important for participating in driving the earth's main element cycles, and for the creation of certain types of food, medical substances and biological weapons.
- Microbe News from Genome News Network (http://www.genomenewsnetwork.org/categories/index/microbes.php)
- BBC News, 28 September, 2001: The microbes that 'rule the world' (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1569264.stm) Citat: "... The Earth's climate may be dependent upon microbes that eat rock beneath the sea floor, according to new research....The number of the worm-like tracks in the rocks diminishes with depth; at 300 metres (985 feet) below the sea floor, they become much rarer..."
- BBC News, 10 July, 2000, Snow microbes found at South Pole (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/827063.stm) Citat: "...able to survive the large doses of ultraviolet radiation, extreme cold and darkness...The microbes have DNA sequences similar to a category of bacteria known as Deinococcus..."
- BBCNews: 16 January, 2002, Tough bugs point to life on Mars (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1764716.stm) Citat: "...This research demonstrates that certain microbes can thrive in the absence of sunlight by using hydrogen gas..."
- BBCNews: 17 January, 2002, Alien life could be like Antarctic bugs (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1765792.stm)