The struggles and sex lives of microbes are as fascinating as any docudrama
The Amoeba in the Room: Lives of the Microbes
Nicholas P. Money
Oxford Univ., $24.95
Prochlorococcus is a little bacterium with a big job. Less than a micrometer in diameter, it’s the most abundant photosynthetic organism on Earth, taking up carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. If the octillion — that’s a 1 followed by 27 zeros — or more Prochlorococcus currently adrift in the world’s oceans were to disappear, writes mycologist Nicholas Money, air-breathing animals would suffocate.
For far too long, Money argues, biology textbooks have focused on life that’s visible to the naked eye. But the soil, seas and air abound with tiny living things that cycle nutrients and form the base of a food web supporting more familiar life-forms. Even the human