microworld

the most powerful life on earth

When you look from really close, a new world is revealed to you.
More beautiful and spectacular than you could ever have imagined.

so small, you can’t even see them

Those who think a flea is small are about to enter a whole new world. The world of microorganisms. A microorganism, or microbe, is a creature that is too small to be seen with the naked eye. They’re so small, in fact, that a million bacteria – one of the smallest microbes – can fit on the tip of a pin. Without microorganisms like moulds, yeasts, (micro)algae, bacteria, archaea, viruses and micro-animals, life on earth would not be possible.

micro small but in great numbers

A single bacteria can fit more then a million times on the tip of a needle.

two-thirds of life is invisible

When you look around, you see trees, plants and perhaps some birds. These organisms are visible to the naked eye. For a long time, scientists thought that ‘nature’ was made up of only these visible things. Today, we know better. Two-thirds of life on earth is microorganisms, which cannot be seen without a microscope.

tree of life three domains

visible
organisms

invisible
organisms

limitless variation

In the 3.5 billion years that they have inhabited the earth, microbes have evolved and adapted to nearly every type of environment. That’s why they can live in the most extreme places. Everywhere there is food, there is life. And microbes eat almost everything, including metals, acids, petroleum and natural gas. The number of, and the number of different species of, microorganisms are enormous, and new species are discovered every day.

100 million different types

    green algae

green algae (Pediastrum)


    waterbear

waterbear (Tardigrada)


    MRSA bacteria

MRSA bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus)


    slime moulds

slime moulds (Physarum polycephalum)


    Haloquadratum walsbyi

Haloquadratum walsbyi  


    volvox

volvox (geslacht: Volvox)


    cyanobacteria or blue-green algae

cyanobacteria or blue-green algae (Phormidium sp.)


    freshwater water flea

freshwater water flea (Daphnia magna)


    grey mould

grey mould (Botrytis cinerea)


    lichen

lichen  


    diatom

diatom (Triceratium sp.)


    Epstein-Barr virus

Epstein-Barr virus  

the most powerful organisms on our planet

The micro-world may be invisible and mysterious, but it’s also indispensable. Microbes are essential in our world and in our bodies. Microalgae in the ocean produce half of all the oxygen in our atmosphere. Fungi and bacteria convert the organic material from dead animals into new raw materials. And intestinal bacteria help you digest your food. Without any of them, life on earth wouldn’t be possible.

indispensable
50%

of all oxygen
in our atmosphere
is produced
by micro algae.

visible for the first time

The Dutchman Antoni van Leeuwenhoek was the first person to discover microbes; in 1674 with a microscope he made himself. In a drop of water from the murky Berkelse meer (lake), he saw what he called ‘tiny animalcules’. Those turned out to be green algae and rotifers. A short time later (1676), he also discovered red blood cells and bacteria.

about Antoni van Leeuwenhoek

Antoni van Leeuwenhoek drew pictures of everything he saw through his microscope.

microbiology

Microbiology: that’s something to do with microscopes, white coats and a laboratory, right? Well, yes. But it’s certainly not as boring as it sounds. The contributions of microbiologists mean that AIDS is no longer immediately fatal, and damage from notorious hospital bacteria can remain in check. But beer brewers also need microbial knowledge to keep yeast alive during the brewing process. And most of the products in your refrigerator wouldn’t exist without microbiology. You wouldn’t even need a refrigerator without microbes. For most people, microbiology is a mystery, even though it actually offers us so many possibilities.

the method of microbiologists revolution in microbiology

the oldest earth-dwellers

Microorganisms emerged around 3.5 billion years ago. Back then, the earth was very different than it is today. Microorganisms were able to colonise the steamy, toxic globe, and have been the most powerful organisms ever since. Around 1.7 billion years ago, the first multicellular microorganisms were formed from unicellular ones. And much later than that, about 600 million years ago, the first visible life forms, such as worms, emerged. These multicellular and more complex organisms had important advantages over their microscopic competitors.

the first life emerges

If we translate the unimaginably long time of 4,6 billion years that earth exists to a calendar year, microbes appeared already in February. Only in mid-November more complex organisms such as worm-like organisms came to being. Mid-December mammals arrived. Then man appeared 31st of December, 1 second before midnight.

microsex, how do microbes ‘do it’?

Microorganisms have sex in all different kinds of ways. The speed and efficiency with which they do it give them many new features andensure that microorganisms can adapt perfectly to their environment and can survive basically anywhere. And they do. How did they manage to make that happen?

sex or no sex?

life in the extreme

Hot geysers, acidic volcanic lakes, deep-sea trenches, salty lakes, glaciers and even nuclear reactors. After eons of evolution, all kinds of microbes have sought refuge in the most extreme places. Organisms that prefer to dwell in those conditions are known as extremophiles.

meet the extremophiles

waterbears can live through all kinds of extreme situations for nearly a decade in its state of suspended animation.

the expert explains

Han Wösten, Chairman of the Koninklijke Nederlandse Vereniging voor Microbiologie (KNVM) (the Royal Dutch Society of Microbiology), provides an introduction to Microbiology. Why are microbes so special and important to our lives? What is his perspective about the future?

watch the video

microworld

the most powerful life on earth

When you look from really close, a new world is revealed to you.
More beautiful and spectacular than you could ever have imagined.

A single bacteria can fit more then a million times on the tip of a needle.

so small, you can’t even see them

Those who think a flea is small are about to enter a whole new world. The world of microorganisms. A microorganism, or microbe, is a creature that is too small to be seen with the naked eye. They’re so small, in fact, that a million bacteria – one of the smallest microbes – can fit on the tip of a pin. Without microorganisms like moulds, yeasts, (micro)algae, bacteria, archaea, viruses and micro-animals, life on earth would not be possible.

micro small but in great numbers

visible
organisms

invisible
organisms

two-thirds of life is invisible

When you look around, you see trees, plants and perhaps some birds. These organisms are visible to the naked eye. For a long time, scientists thought that ‘nature’ was made up of only these visible things. Today, we know better. Two-thirds of life on earth is microorganisms, which cannot be seen without a microscope.

tree of life three domains

    slime moulds

slime moulds (Physarum polycephalum)


    freshwater water flea

freshwater water flea (Daphnia magna)


    Epstein-Barr virus

Epstein-Barr virus  


    diatom

diatom (Triceratium sp.)

limitless variation

In the 3.5 billion years that they have inhabited the earth, microbes have evolved and adapted to nearly every type of environment. That’s why they can live in the most extreme places. Everywhere there is food, there is life. And microbes eat almost everything, including metals, acids, petroleum and natural gas. The number of, and the number of different species of, microorganisms are enormous, and new species are discovered every day.

100 million different types
50%

of all oxygen
in our atmosphere
is produced
by micro algae.

the most powerful organisms on our planet

The micro-world may be invisible and mysterious, but it’s also indispensable. Microbes are essential in our world and in our bodies. Microalgae in the ocean produce half of all the oxygen in our atmosphere. Fungi and bacteria convert the organic material from dead animals into new raw materials. And intestinal bacteria help you digest your food. Without any of them, life on earth wouldn’t be possible.

indispensable

Antoni van Leeuwenhoek drew pictures of everything he saw through his microscope.

visible for the first time

The Dutchman Antoni van Leeuwenhoek was the first person to discover microbes; in 1674 with a microscope he made himself. In a drop of water from the murky Berkelse meer (lake), he saw what he called ‘tiny animalcules’. Those turned out to be green algae and rotifers. A short time later (1676), he also discovered red blood cells and bacteria.

about Antoni van Leeuwenhoek

microbiology

Microbiology: that’s something to do with microscopes, white coats and a laboratory, right? Well, yes. But it’s certainly not as boring as it sounds. The contributions of microbiologists mean that AIDS is no longer immediately fatal, and damage from notorious hospital bacteria can remain in check. But beer brewers also need microbial knowledge to keep yeast alive during the brewing process. And most of the products in your refrigerator wouldn’t exist without microbiology. You wouldn’t even need a refrigerator without microbes. For most people, microbiology is a mystery, even though it actually offers us so many possibilities.

the method of microbiologists revolution in microbiology

If we translate the unimaginably long time of 4,6 billion years that earth exists to a calendar year, microbes appeared already in February. Only in mid-November more complex organisms such as worm-like organisms came to being. Mid-December mammals arrived. Then man appeared 31st of December, 1 second before midnight.

the oldest earth-dwellers

Microorganisms emerged around 3.5 billion years ago. Back then, the earth was very different than it is today. Microorganisms were able to colonise the steamy, toxic globe, and have been the most powerful organisms ever since. Around 1.7 billion years ago, the first multicellular microorganisms were formed from unicellular ones. And much later than that, about 600 million years ago, the first visible life forms, such as worms, emerged. These multicellular and more complex organisms had important advantages over their microscopic competitors.

the first life emerges

microsex, how do microbes ‘do it’?

Microorganisms have sex in all different kinds of ways. The speed and efficiency with which they do it give them many new features andensure that microorganisms can adapt perfectly to their environment and can survive basically anywhere. And they do. How did they manage to make that happen?

sex or no sex?

waterbears can live through all kinds of extreme situations for nearly a decade in its state of suspended animation.

life in the extreme

Hot geysers, acidic volcanic lakes, deep-sea trenches, salty lakes, glaciers and even nuclear reactors. After eons of evolution, all kinds of microbes have sought refuge in the most extreme places. Organisms that prefer to dwell in those conditions are known as extremophiles.

meet the extremophiles

the expert explains

Han Wösten, Chairman of the Koninklijke Nederlandse Vereniging voor Microbiologie (KNVM) (the Royal Dutch Society of Microbiology), provides an introduction to Microbiology. Why are microbes so special and important to our lives? What is his perspective about the future?

watch the video