Profile – Acidobacteria


Acidobacteria are a relatively new group of bacteria discovered in the 1980’s and the phylum itself only became officially recognised in the 1990’s. Despite their commonness and diversity, which rivals that of Proteobacteria in soil, scientists were oblivious to their existence partly because they were difficult to grow in the lab. One of the main reasons this group proved difficult to cultivate in the lab was because their ‘dietary’ preferences were misunderstood. Unlike most organisms, Acideobacteria generally prefer harsher growing conditions than most other organisms and they grow very slowly, requiring several days to weeks to form visible colonies.

As a result of their ability to thrive in harsh conditions, Acidobacteria are more dominant in soils that are either poor in nutrients, or acidic. In fact, the first Acidobacteria species to be recognised was found in the acidic mine-site waste in a river in Japan. Unlike Proteobacteria that change actively with their surroundings, Acidobacteria are present all the time, which also can make them easy to overlook.


As this group is a relatively new discovery their full functionality and usefulness is still being explored. The hardiness of Acidobacteria might make them a prime candidate for mitigating pollution, as they can survive in a toxic environment and slowly clean up pollutants. While we are now able to detect Acidobacteria as a phylum, it will take time for our understanding of them at a species level to develop.

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Bacterial profiles: Proteobacteria | Actinobacteria | Acidobacteria | Tenericutes | Firmicutes