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In this lesson you’ll learn about monerans, the group of organisms that bacteria belong to. Discover the name’s history and the function(s) of different types of bacteria in the environment.

What Are Monerans?

Have you ever wondered about all the ways in which you interact with bacteria? It’s not a topic most people think about because the word itself conjures up thoughts of disease and sickness. In reality, most bacteria we encounter are actually beneficial, not harmful.The term Monera refers to a large group of organisms that include Archaea and Bacteria.

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These organisms are single-celled and lack a nucleus inside. Their DNA is loosely organized within the cell. This type of cell is known as a prokaryotic cell. As a result, bacteria are often referred to as prokaryotes.The monerans are the original lifeforms that first developed when the earth had cooled enough and there was sufficient water to support life as we know it. They are very old. How old, you ask? 3.

5 billion years (give or take one hundred million years). The monerans have survived five major extinctions, and some members live in environments where nothing else can survive.As time has progressed and we’ve learned more about these original inhabitants of Earth, biologists have recognized that the category of kingdom wasn’t appropriate.

The Kingdom Monera consisted of bacteria and archaea, but archaea were found to be more closely related to Eukarya than Bacteria. As a result, you don’t see the term ‘Monera’ used much anymore. Now many scientists use a three-domain system where Archaea and Bacteria are two of three domains (a domain is a step above kingdom). Monera now refers to creatures in either domain.

Archaea

The name Archaea refers to age, in this case meaning ‘ancient~.’ This group of single-celled organisms is believed to be the original life form on Earth. This is a large and diverse domain that contains some very strange organisms.

Archaea can be found in every ecosystem and environment on Earth. You will see them referred to as extremophiles, meaning they can survive and thrive in extreme environments.Examples include:

  1. Thermophiles are archaea that live in extreme temperatures (ice caps and boiling water like the geysers and pools in Yellowstone National Park)
  2. Halophiles are archaea that live in environments with a high salt content
  3. Methanogens are archaea that give off methane as a byproduct and live in deep-sea vents and our own large intestines

Archaea support the cycling of carbon and nitrogen in the environment, and they are significant contributors to soil.

This helps support a variety of other organism (including humans).

Bacteria

The Kingdom Bacteria contains the harmful bacteria that we are familiar with as well as many more beneficial species. These single-celled organisms come in three basic shapes: bacillus (rod-shaped), coccus (spheres), and spirillum (spiral or corkscrew-shaped). Bacteria are found in every ecosystem on Earth but are generally less extreme than archaea. Some are parasitic bacteria that make us sick producing such maladies as tuberculosis, staph infection, and syphilis for example.

But, most of these organisms are beneficial to humans and other living things. They are an essential part of our food production, for example in making cheese and yogurt. They live in the soil and take nitrogen from air and turn it into a form that plants can use to grow and flourish.

Lesson Summary

Monerans are the largest and oldest group of organisms on Earth. We know them better as bacteria.

The Kingdom Monera was found to be too broad and has been split into two kingdoms called Archaea and Bacteria. The Archaea are the ‘ancient’ bacteria and are believed to be the earliest lifeforms, dating back approximately 3.5 billion years. Archaea are adapted to all ecosystems and environments and actually can live in extreme places where nothing else can survive, such as the polar ice cap and the geysers in Yellowstone National Park. The Kingdom Bacteria contains the harmful bacteria that we are familiar with, as well as many more beneficial species that help us produce food and enrich the soil for plant production.

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