Magnetospirillum magnetotacticum
Mitchell Niehoff

There exists in this world a nearly infinite number of interesting or unique bacteria. Among the most interesting are classes of bacteria known as Magnetotactic bacteria. These bacteria are differentiated from other bacteria by their unique ability to orient themselves along the magnetic field lines of the Earth’s magnetic field. A common Magnetotactic bacterium is Magnetospirillum magnetotacticum, or Magnetospirillum.

Magnetospirillum is an Alpha Proteobacteria of the order Rhodospirillales. This gram-negative, microaerophilic bacterium was first isolated in 1975 by R. P. Blakemore at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Blakemore published his findings on Magnetospirillum in Science Magazine that same year. The first description of magnetic bacteria in general was published twelve years prior by Salvatore Bellini at the University of Pavia’s Microbiology Institute.

Further studies have found that Magnetospirillum possesses its magnetic properties because of special organelles in the cytoplasm called magnetosomes. These organelles produce a chain of magnetic particles composed of magnetite inside the cell. It is thought that this has provided an evolutionary advantage to the bacteria in allowing it to more easily navigate the oxygen-rich and oxygen-starved sediment where it resides in search of an optimum concentration of oxygen, an action known as aerotaxis.

Theories abound on how this specific bacteria has been used. A personal favorite of this author is the theory that Magnetotactic bacteria in the brains of birds allow them to navigate during long migrations. Regardless of its uses, it is clear that Magnetospirillum is one definite example that Microbes Rule!


"Magnetotactic bacteria." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 25 Jan 2007, 19:47 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 30 Jan 2007 <>.

"Magnetospirillum." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 18 Dec 2006, 05:22 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 30 Jan 2007 <>.

*Disclaimer - This report was written by a student participaring in a microbiology course at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. The accuracy of the contents of this report is not guaranteed and it is recommended that you seek additional sources of information to verify the contents.


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