Yellowstone National Park – the source of Taq polymerase

I’ve started my second year of blogging for The Finch and Pea, and this year I’ll be focusing my science travel posts on places I have NOT been. The first one I wrote is about Yellowstone National Park, and the history of the discovery of Thermus aquaticus. This organism is the source of Taq polymerase, which is used in many biology labs for PCR reactions.

Brock took samples from springs at different temperatures, and found many more microbes than he originally thought possible. Some of them even lived at temperatures higher than 73°C, which was at the time thought to be the upper limit for life. One of the sites he studied was a spring in the Lower Geyser Basin, called Mushroom Spring. In October 1966, Brock isolated culture YT-1 of a new micro organism, from a sample he had collected in Mushroom Spring at a temperature of 73°C on September 5th. He initially called his new discovery Caldobacter trichogenes, but by the time the first article about the discovery was published, the name had already changed to Thermus aquaticus.

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Eva

Eva Amsen is a writer, science communicator and blogger, interested in the overlap between science and music, art, pop culture, and daily life. Portfolio | Twitter | Contact

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