How Many Bacteria Live on Earth?

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Bacteria are extremely common and abundant in every habitat, and it's estimated that their are 5 nonillion bacteria on Earth. Learn about the role of bacteria in nutrient cycles and as decomposers with help from a science teacher and field biologist in this free video on biology.

Part of the Video Series: Chemistry & Biology
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Video Transcript

HI, I'm Brian with Today we're going to discuss how many bacteria live on earth. So bacteria are extremely common, they are abundant in every habitat and they are simply unicellular, micro-organisms. So to answer the question straight out, the last estimate I've seen of the number of bacteria is that there's approximately five times ten to the thirtieth power bacteria on earth. In normal words, that's five nonillion bacteria. Maybe you didn't know that number existed. Anyway, this means that bacteria are just everywhere. They evacuate with us. Bacteria perform extremely important functions. They're major decomposers; so they are connected with the recycling of nutrients. They're also play key roles in nutrients cycles; so they fix nitrogen and play major roles in other cycles as well like the carbon cycle. Bacteria can also be responsible for some major issues. They cause disease; diseases like syphilis, anthrax, things like that. They can also cause things like tuberculosis. But not all bacteria are bad; you actually have quite a few bacteria in your body. I think they vastly outnumber the number of human cells that you have in your body. So maybe that's scary, but it's actually pretty good. We use bacteria for food. Just think about like cheese or yogurt that is cultured by bacteria. So bacteria everywhere, they do a lot really great things for us; but to answer the question, five nonillion bacteria roughly on earth.


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