Olympic Medal Count: How Did Each Country Fare at Tokyo 2020?
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Olympic Medal Count: How Did Each Country Fare at Tokyo 2020

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2020 Olympic Medal Count

Olympic Medal Count: How Countries Fared at Tokyo 2020

Every four years, the Summer Olympics brings together thousands of athletes from around the world to compete in a global arena of sportsmanship and athletic excellence.

Tokyo hosted the 2020 Summer Olympics from July 24 to August 9, 2021, marking the second time Japan has hosted the Summer Olympics. The country was first given the honor back in 1964 becoming the first Asian nation to host the Olympic Games.

Even in this most challenging of climates where the games had to be pushed by a year, nothing stopped the athletes from exceeding their limits and breaking long-held records.

The Final 2020 Olympic Medal Count

In a complete show of dominance, the U.S. won the most medals at the Olympics, raking in 113 total with 39 gold medals. The U.S. beat out China to claim the top spot by a single gold medal. China finished the games with an impressive 88 medals in total. The host country Japan comes in at third with 27 gold medals and a total of 58 medals.

Here is the final Olympic medal count for each country that participated in the Tokyo Olympic Games:

RankCountryGoldSilverBronzeTotal
1🇺🇸 U.S.394133113
2🇨🇳 China38321888
3🇯🇵 Japan27141758
4🇬🇧 Great Britain22212265
5🇷🇺 ROC (Russia)20282371
6🇦🇺 Australia17072246
7🇳🇱 Netherlands10121436
8🇫🇷 France10121133
9🇩🇪 Germany10111637
10🇮🇹 Italy10102040
11🇨🇦 Canada07061124
12🇧🇷 Brazil07060821
13🇳🇿 New Zealand07060720
14🇨🇺 Cuba07030515
15🇭🇺 Hungary06070720
16🇰🇷 South Korea06041020
17🇵🇱 Poland04050514
18🇨🇿 Czech Republic04040311
19🇰🇪 Kenya04040210
20🇳🇴 Norway04020208
21🇯🇲 Jamaica04010409
22🇪🇸 Spain03080617
23🇸🇪 Sweden03060009
24🇨🇭 Switzerland03040613
25🇩🇰 Denmark03040411
26🇭🇷 Croatia03030208
27🇮🇷 Iran03020207
28🇷🇸 Serbia03010509
29🇧🇪 Belgium03010307
30🇧🇬 Bulgaria03010206
31🇸🇮 Slovenia03010105
32🇺🇿 Uzbekistan03000205
33🇬🇪 Georgia02050108
34🇹🇼 Chinese Taipei (Taiwan)02040612
35🇹🇷 Turkey02020913
36🇬🇷 Greece02010104
36🇺🇬 Uganda02010104
38🇪🇨 Ecuador02010003
39🇮🇪 Ireland02000204
39🇮🇱 Israel02000204
41🇶🇦 Qatar02000103
42🇧🇸 Bahamas02000002
42🇽🇰 Kosovo02000002
44🇺🇦 Ukraine01061219
45🇧🇾 Belarus01030307
46🇷🇴 Romania01030004
46🇻🇪 Venezuela01030004
48🇮🇳 India01020407
49🇭🇰 Hong Kong01020306
50🇵🇭 Philippines01020104
50🇸🇰 Slovakia01020104
52🇿🇦 South Africa01020003
53🇦🇹 Austria01010507
54🇪🇬 Egypt01010406
55🇮🇩 Indonesia01010305
56🇪🇹 Ethiopia01010204
56🇵🇹 Portugal01010204
58🇹🇳 Tunisia01010002
59🇪🇪 Estonia01000102
59🇫🇯 Fiji01000102
59🇱🇻 Latvia01000102
59🇹🇭 Thailand01000102
63🇧🇲 Bermuda01000001
63🇲🇦 Morocco01000001
63🇵🇷 Puerto Rico01000001
66🇨🇴 Colombia00040105
67🇦🇿 Azerbaijan00030407
68🇩🇴 Dominican Republic00030205
69🇦🇲 Armenia00020204
70🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan00020103
71🇲🇳 Mongolia00010304
72🇦🇷 Argentina00010203
72🇸🇲 San Marino00010203
74🇯🇴 Jordan00010102
74🇲🇾 Malaysia00010102
74🇳🇬 Nigeria00010102
77🇧🇭 Bahrain00010001
77🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia00010001
77🇱🇹 Lithuania00010001
77🇲🇰 North Macedonia00010001
77🇳🇦 Namibia00010001
77🇹🇲 Turkmenistan00010001
83🇰🇿 Kazakhstan00000808
84🇲🇽 Mexico00000404
85🇫🇮 Finland00000202
86🇧🇼 Botswana00000101
86🇧🇫 Burkina Faso00000101
86🇨🇮 Côte d'Ivoire00000101
86🇬🇭 Ghana00000101
86🇬🇩 Grenada00000101
86🇰🇼 Kuwait00000101
86🇲🇩 Republic of Moldova00000101
86🇸🇾 Syria00000101

Of course, countries with larger populations have an inherent advantage, so it’s also interesting to look at the top countries by population per medal. By this measure, the European microstate of San Marino comes out on top. This was San Marino’s first ever medal showing at an Olympic Games. Turkmenistan and Burkina Faso also won medals for the first time at Tokyo 2020.

Here’s a look at the top 15 countries by population per Olympic medal:

Country (population)Olympic Medals in 2020Population per medal
San Marino (33,931)311,310
Bermuda (63,918)163,918
Grenada (112,523)1112,523
Bahamas (393,244)2196,622
New Zealand (4,822,233)20241,112
Jamaica (2,961,167)9329,019
Slovenia (2,078,938)5415,788
Fiji (896,445)2448,222
Netherlands (17,134,872)36475,969
Georgia (3,989,167)8498,645
Hungary (9,660,351)20483,018
Croatia (4,105,267)8513,158
Denmark (5,792,202)11526,563
Australia (25,499,884)46554,345
Estonia (1,326,535)2663,267

Among countries with a slightly larger population, the Netherlands and Australia had strong showings.

Other Facts and Figures About the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Despite a year-long delay and a slew of challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, this unprecedented Olympic Games went ahead. Here are 12 interesting things to note about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics:

1. The Olympic Torch

The Olympic Torch Relay traveled through all 47 of Japan’s prefectures over 121 days. It involved 10,500 torchbearers, who ultimately arrived at Japan’s Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.

2. The Stadiums

40 venues in and around the city of Tokyo hosted 33 Olympic Sports and 22 Paralympic Sports events. The two main areas were the Heritage Zone and the Tokyo Bay Zone.

3. Cost of the Games

The Tokyo Olympics were the most expensive Olympics on record. According to officials, the budget for the Games was $15.4 billion. On the other hand, Japanese government auditors have claimed the total spending topped $20 billion.

This is almost three times the original forecast of around $7.4 billion when Tokyo put together its bid for the Olympics. The postponement of the Games cost the country close to $2 billion, after initial speculation that the cost could be as high as $6 billion.

4. IOC Refugee Olympic Team

29 athletes qualified as part of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team for the Tokyo Olympic Games. Rio 2016 was the first time that an IOC refugee team had made an appearance at the Olympic games.

5. Age is Just a Number

Syrian table tennis player Hend Zaza and Japanese skateboarder Kokona Hiraki were the youngest athletes in Tokyo at 12 years old, while Australian equestrian Mary Hanna was the oldest at 66 years old.

6. Self Service Medalling

Athletes at the Tokyo Olympics put their medals around their own necks to protect against spreading COVID-19. After being presented medals on a tray, the athletes picked it up and medalled themselves. There would also be no handshakes or hugs at the podiums.

7. A Focus on Sustainability

To promote sustainability, this year’s Olympics repurposed a number of the venues used in the 1964 Games. Moreover, the podiums, uniforms, medals, and even the beds at the Olympic Village were all made from recycled materials.

While Japan is not the first to make Olympic medals from recycled materials, it is the first time that citizens of a host country proactively donated their electronic devices as materials for the medals.

8. Inclusion and Diversity

This year, the Games nearly reached gender parity. According to the IOC, of the almost 11,000 Olympic athletes in Tokyo, nearly 49% were women, marking the first “gender-balanced” games in its history. Nearly 85 years after the canoe sprint made its Olympic debut, the women’s sprint event was added to the Olympic games this year.

Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard from New Zealand was the first openly transgender woman competing in any event at the Olympics. She joined other elite athletes like footballer Quinn from Canada and U.S. cyclist Chelsea Wolfe to participate in this year’s games.

9. Mental Health Took Center Stage

Starting with four-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka withdrawing from the French Open over mental health concerns, the conversation about an athlete’s mental preparedness was as important as their physical one at the games.

After Simone Biles stepped away from the U.S. women’s gymnastics team in the all-around contest earlier last week, numerous athletes worldwide have continued to elevate conversations surrounding mental health, especially in competitive sports.

10. Splitting a Medal?

Olympic high jumpers Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy mutually decided to share the top spot in their event. The last time the gold medal was shared among two athletes at the Olympics was 113 years ago.

11. Hot New Events

Four sports made their Olympic debuts at the Tokyo Games: karate, skateboarding, sport climbing, and surfing. Other sports added new disciplines, including men’s and women’s three-on-three basketball and the BMX freestyle event.

12. Tokyo’s Slick Olympic Technology

Humanoid Robots helped on the field for the first time, fetching hammers and javelins flung during field events and interacting with spectators. This was also the first time a host used facial recognition systems to provide athletes and officials venue access, helping to increase and speed up security.

Next Stop, Paris

The Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games will take place from 26 July to 11 August 2024. During those weeks, Paris will be at the center of the sporting world. The IOC is keen to set a new standard for inclusive, gender-balanced and youth-centered games.

The next Olympics are expected to see even more athlete and spectator participation—hopefully, one where they likely won’t have to work around COVID-19 restrictions. With numerous new sports added in Tokyo’s Olympic Games, we might even see breakdancing in the Paris version of events. Here’s to the next four years.

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Money

Mapped: Which Countries Have the Highest Inflation?

Many countries around the world are facing double or triple-digit inflation. See which countries have the highest inflation rates on this map.

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Mapped: Which Countries Have the Highest Inflation Rate?

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.

Inflation is surging nearly everywhere in 2022.

Geopolitical tensions are triggering high energy costs, while supply-side disruptions are also distorting consumer prices. The end result is that almost half of countries worldwide are seeing double-digit inflation rates or higher.

With new macroeconomic forces shaping the global economy, the above infographic shows countries with the highest inflation rates, using data from Trading Economics.

Double-Digit Inflation in 2022

As the table below shows, countless countries are navigating record-high levels of inflation. Some are even facing triple-digit inflation rates. Globally, Zimbabwe, Lebanon, and Venezuela have the highest rates in the world.

CountryInflation Rate, Year-Over-YearDate
🇿🇼 Zimbabwe269.0%Oct 2022
🇱🇧 Lebanon162.0%Sep 2022
🇻🇪 Venezuela156.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇾 Syria139.0%Aug 2022
🇸🇩 Sudan103.0%Oct 2022
🇦🇷 Argentina88.0%Oct 2022
🇹🇷 Turkey85.5%Oct 2022
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka66.0%Oct 2022
🇮🇷 Iran52.2%Aug 2022
🇸🇷 Suriname41.4%Sep 2022
🇬🇭 Ghana40.4%Oct 2022
🇨🇺 Cuba37.2%Sep 2022
🇱🇦 Laos36.8%Oct 2022
🇲🇩 Moldova34.6%Oct 2022
🇪🇹 Ethiopia31.7%Oct 2022
🇷🇼 Rwanda31.0%Oct 2022
🇭🇹 Haiti30.5%Jul 2022
🇸🇱 Sierra Leone29.1%Sep 2022
🇵🇰 Pakistan26.6%Oct 2022
🇺🇦 Ukraine26.6%Oct 2022
🇲🇼 Malawi25.9%Sep 2022
🇱🇹 Lithuania23.6%Oct 2022
🇪🇪 Estonia22.5%Oct 2022
🇧🇮 Burundi22.1%Oct 2022
🇸🇹 Sao Tome and Principe21.9%Sep 2022
🇱🇻 Latvia21.8%Oct 2022
🇭🇺 Hungary21.1%Oct 2022
🇳🇬 Nigeria21.1%Oct 2022
🇲🇰 Macedonia19.8%Oct 2022
🇲🇲 Myanmar19.4%Jun 2022
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan18.8%Oct 2022
🇵🇱 Poland17.9%Oct 2022
🇧🇬 Bulgaria17.6%Oct 2022
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan17.5%Dec 2021
🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina17.3%Sep 2022
🇲🇪 Montenegro16.8%Oct 2022
🇦🇴 Angola16.7%Oct 2022
🇧🇫 Burkina Faso16.5%Sep 2022
🇪🇬 Egypt16.2%Oct 2022
🇰🇲 Comoros15.9%Sep 2022
🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan15.4%Oct 2022
🇷🇴 Romania15.3%Oct 2022
🇧🇾 Belarus15.2%Oct 2022
🇨🇿 Czech Republic15.1%Oct 2022
🇷🇸 Serbia15.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇰 Slovakia14.9%Oct 2022
🇲🇳 Mongolia14.5%Oct 2022
🇳🇱 Netherlands14.3%Oct 2022
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan13.7%Oct 2022
🇦🇫 Afghanistan13.6%Sep 2022
🇬🇲 Gambia13.3%Sep 2022
🇭🇷 Croatia13.2%Oct 2022
🇧🇼 Botswana13.1%Oct 2022
🇸🇳 Senegal13.0%Oct 2022
🇨🇱 Chile12.8%Oct 2022
🇽🇰 Kosovo12.7%Oct 2022
🇷🇺 Russia12.6%Oct 2022
🇬🇳 Guinea12.4%Jul 2022
🇧🇪 Belgium12.3%Oct 2022
🇨🇴 Colombia12.2%Oct 2022
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan12.2%Oct 2022
🇨🇬 Congo12.2%Oct 2022
🇳🇮 Nicaragua12.2%Oct 2022
🇰🇾 Cayman Islands12.1%Jun 2022
🇲🇺 Mauritius11.9%Oct 2022
🇲🇿 Mozambique11.8%Oct 2022
🇮🇹 Italy11.8%Oct 2022
🇲🇱 Mali11.3%Sep 2022
🇲🇷 Mauritania11.3%Sep 2022
🇬🇧 United Kingdom11.1%Oct 2022
🇦🇹 Austria11.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇪 Sweden10.9%Oct 2022
🇺🇬 Uganda10.7%Oct 2022
🇬🇪 Georgia10.6%Oct 2022
🇩🇪 Germany10.4%Oct 2022
🇭🇳 Honduras10.2%Oct 2022
🇩🇰 Denmark10.1%Oct 2022
🇵🇹 Portugal10.1%Oct 2022
🇯🇲 Jamaica9.9%Oct 2022
🇸🇮 Slovenia9.9%Oct 2022
🇬🇹 Guatemala9.7%Oct 2022
🇿🇲 Zambia9.7%Oct 2022
🇰🇪 Kenya9.6%Oct 2022
🇦🇲 Armenia9.5%Oct 2022
🇮🇸 Iceland9.4%Oct 2022
🇲🇬 Madagascar9.3%Aug 2022
🇮🇪 Ireland9.2%Oct 2022
🇱🇸 Lesotho9.2%Sep 2022
🇹🇳 Tunisia9.2%Oct 2022
🇬🇷 Greece9.1%Oct 2022
🇺🇾 Uruguay9.1%Oct 2022
🇨🇷 Costa Rica9.0%Oct 2022
🇧🇩 Bangladesh8.9%Oct 2022
🇨🇾 Cyprus8.8%Oct 2022
🇫🇴 Faroe Islands8.8%Sep 2022
🇩🇿 Algeria8.7%Sep 2022
🇳🇵 Nepal8.6%Sep 2022
🇸🇧 Solomon Islands8.5%Aug 2022
🇲🇽 Mexico8.4%Oct 2022
🇬🇼 Guinea Bissau8.4%Sep 2022
🇦🇱 Albania8.3%Oct 2022
🇧🇧 Barbados8.3%Aug 2022
🇫🇮 Finland8.3%Oct 2022
🇲🇦 Morocco8.3%Sep 2022
🇵🇪 Peru8.3%Oct 2022
🇩🇴 Dominican Republic8.2%Oct 2022
🇨🇻 Cape Verde8.2%Oct 2022
🇵🇾 Paraguay8.1%Oct 2022
🇹🇱 East Timor7.9%Sep 2022
🇹🇬 Togo7.9%Sep 2022
🇵🇭 Philippines7.7%Oct 2022
🇺🇸 U.S.7.7%Oct 2022
🇨🇲 Cameroon7.6%Sep 2022
🇳🇴 Norway7.5%Oct 2022
🇸🇬 Singapore7.5%Sep 2022
🇿🇦 South Africa7.5%Sep 2022
🇸🇻 El Salvador7.5%Oct 2022
🇲🇹 Malta7.4%Oct 2022
🇦🇺 Australia7.3%Sep 2022
🇪🇸 Spain7.3%Oct 2022
🇹🇩 Chad7.2%Sep 2022
🇳🇿 New Zealand7.2%Sep 2022
🇧🇿 Belize7.1%Sep 2022
🇳🇦 Namibia7.1%Oct 2022
🇦🇼 Aruba7.0%Sep 2022
🇨🇦 Canada6.9%Oct 2022
🇱🇺 Luxembourg6.9%Oct 2022
🇸🇴 Somalia6.9%Oct 2022
🇮🇳 India6.8%Oct 2022
🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates6.8%Jun 2022
🇬🇾 Guyana6.5%Sep 2022
🇱🇷 Liberia6.5%Jul 2022
🇧🇷 Brazil6.5%Oct 2022
🇧🇸 Bahamas6.3%Aug 2022
🇨🇮 Ivory Coast6.3%Sep 2022
🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago6.3%Aug 2022
🇫🇷 France6.2%Oct 2022
🇩🇯 Djibouti6.1%Sep 2022
🇵🇷 Puerto Rico6.1%Sep 2022
🇧🇹 Bhutan6.1%Sep 2022
🇧🇹 Qatar6.0%Sep 2022
🇹🇭 Thailand6.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇿 Swaziland5.8%Aug 2022
🇮🇩 Indonesia5.7%Oct 2022
🇰🇷 South Korea5.7%Oct 2022
🇹🇯 Tajikistan5.7%Sep 2022
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea5.5%Jun 2022
🇰🇭 Cambodia5.4%Jul 2022
🇮🇶 Iraq5.3%Sep 2022
🇯🇴 Jordan5.2%Oct 2022
🇫🇯 Fiji5.1%Sep 2022
🇮🇱 Israel5.1%Oct 2022
🇳🇨 New Caledonia5.0%Sep 2022
🇹🇿 Tanzania4.9%Oct 2022
🇧🇲 Bermuda4.5%Jul 2022
🇪🇷 Eritrea4.5%Dec 2021
🇲🇾 Malaysia4.5%Sep 2022
🇭🇰 Hong Kong4.4%Sep 2022
🇵🇸 Palestine4.4%Oct 2022
🇧🇳 Brunei4.3%Sep 2022
🇱🇾 Libya4.3%Sep 2022
🇻🇳 Vietnam4.3%Oct 2022
🇪🇨 Ecuador4.0%Oct 2022
🇧🇭 Bahrain4.0%Sep 2022
🇯🇵 Japan3.7%Oct 2022
🇰🇼 Kuwait3.2%Sep 2022
🇳🇪 Niger3.2%Sep 2022
🇲🇻 Maldives3.1%Sep 2022
🇬🇦 Gabon3.0%Jul 2022
🇱🇮 Liechtenstein3.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia3.0%Oct 2022
🇨🇭 Switzerland3.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇨 Seychelles2.9%Oct 2022
🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea2.9%Dec 2021
🇧🇴 Bolivia2.9%Oct 2022
🇹🇼 Taiwan2.7%Oct 2022
🇨🇫 Central African Republic2.7%Dec 2021
🇻🇺 Vanuatu2.7%Mar 2022
🇴🇲 Oman2.4%Sep 2022
🇧🇯 Benin2.1%Oct 2022
🇨🇳 China2.1%Oct 2022
🇵🇦 Panama1.9%Sep 2022
🇲🇴 Macau1.1%Sep 2022
🇸🇸 South Sudan-2.5%Aug 2022

*Inflation rates based on the latest available data.

As price pressures mount, 33 central banks tracked by the Bank of International Settlements (out of a total of 38) have raised interest rates this year. These coordinated rate hikes are the largest in two decades, representing an end to an era of rock-bottom interest rates.

Going into 2023, central banks could continue this shift towards hawkish policies as inflation remains aggressively high.

The Role of Energy Prices

Driven by the war in Ukraine, energy inflation is pushing up the cost of living around the world.

Since October 2020, an index of global energy prices—made up of crude oil, natural gas, coal, and propane—has increased drastically.

Double-Digit Inflation

Compared to the 2021 average, natural gas prices in Europe are up sixfold. Real European household electricity prices are up 78% and gas prices have climbed even more, at 144% compared to 20-year averages.

Amid global competition for liquefied natural gas supplies, price pressures are likely to stay high, even though they have fallen recently. Other harmful consequences of the energy shock include price volatility, economic strain, and energy shortages.

“The world is in the midst of the first truly global energy crisis, with impacts that will be felt for years to come”.

-Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA

Double-Digit Inflation: Will it Last?

If history is an example, taming rising prices could take at least a few years yet.

Take the sky-high inflation of the 1980s. Italy, which managed to combat inflation faster than most countries, brought down inflation from 22% in 1980 to 4% in 1986.

If global inflation rates, which hover around 9.8% in 2022, were to follow this course, it would take at least until 2025 for levels to reach the 2% target.

It’s worth noting that inflation was also highly volatile over this decade. Consider how inflation fell across much of the rich world by 1981 but shot up again in 1987 amid higher energy prices. Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell spoke to the volatility of inflation at their November meeting, indicating that high inflation has a chance of following a period of low inflation.

While the Federal Reserve projects U.S. inflation to fall closer to its 2% target by 2024, the road ahead could still get a lot bumpier between now and then.

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Misc

Visualized: The Many Shapes of Bacteria

We introduce the visual diversity of bacteria and illustrate how they are categorized by appearance—from a single cell to an entire colony.

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Invisible Diversity: The Many Shapes of Bacteria

Bacteria are amazing.

They were the first form of life to appear on Earth almost 3.8 billion years ago.

They make up the second most abundant lifeform, only outweighed by plants.

And most interesting of all: they exist in practically every environment on our planet, including areas where no other lifeforms can survive. As a result, bacteria exhibit a wide variety of appearances, behaviors, and applications similar to the lifeforms we see in our everyday lives.

The incredible diversity of bacteria goes underappreciated simply because they are invisible to the naked eye. Here, we illustrate how researchers classify these creatures on the basis of appearance, giving you a glimpse into this microscopic world.

A Life of Culture

Though bacteria may look similar to other microorganisms like fungi or plankton, they are entirely unique on a microscopic and genetic level.

Bacteria make up one of the three main domains of life. All life shares its earliest ancestor with this group of microbes, alongside two other domains: the Archaea and the Eukarya.

Archaea are very similar to bacteria, but have different contents making up their cell walls.

Eukarya largely consists of complex, multicellular life, like fungi, plants, and animals. Bacteria are similar to its single-celled members because all bacteria are also unicellular. However, while all Eukarya have nuclear membranes that store genetic material, bacteria do not.

Bacteria have their genetic material free-floating within their cellular bodies. This impacts how their genes are encoded, how proteins are synthesized, and how they reproduce. For example, bacteria do not reproduce sexually. Instead, they reproduce on their own.

Bacteria undergo a process called binary fission, where any one cell divides into two identical cells, and so on. Fission occurs quickly. In minutes, populations can double rapidly, eventually forming a community of genetically identical microbes called a colony.

Colonies can be visible to the human eye and can take on a variety of different shapes, textures, sizes, colors, and behaviors. You might be familiar with some of these:

Superstars of a Tiny World

The following are some interesting bacterial species, some of which you may be familiar with:

Epulopiscium spp

This species is unusually large, ranging from 200-700 micrometers in length. They are also incredible picky, living only within the guts of sturgeon, a type of large fish.

Deinococcus radiodurans

D. radiodurans is a coccus-shaped species that can withstand 1,500 times the dose of radiation that a human can.

Escherichia coli

Despite being known famously for poisoning food and agriculture spaces from time to time, not all E.coli species are dangerous.

Desulforudis audaxviator

Down in the depths of a South African gold mine, this species thrives without oxygen, sunlight, or friends—it is the only living species in its ecosystem. It survives eating minerals in the surrounding rock.

Helicobacter pylori

Known for causing stomach ulcers, this spiral-shaped species has also been associated with many cancers that impact the lymphoid tissue.

Planococcus halocryophillus

Most living things cease to survive in cold temperatures, but P. halocryophillus thrives in permafrost in the High Arctic where temperatures can drop below -25°C/-12°F.

‘Bact’ to the Future

Despite their microscopic size, the contributions bacteria make to our daily lives are enormous. Researchers everyday are using them to study new environments, create new drug therapies, and even build new materials.

Scientists can profile the diversity of species living in a habitat by extracting DNA from an environmental sample. Known as metagenomics, this field of genetics commonly studies bacterial populations.

In oxygen-free habitats, bacteria continuously find alternative sources of energy. Some have even evolved to eat plastic or metal that have been discarded in the ocean.

The healthcare industry uses bacteria to help create antibiotics, vaccines, and other metabolic products. They also play a major role in a new line of self-building materials, which include “self-healing” concrete and “living bricks”.

Those are just a few of the many examples in which bacteria impact our daily lives. Although they are invisible, without them, our world would undoubtedly look like a much different place.

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