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Prokaryotes are living organisms, including the domains Bacteria and Archaea, which lack "a unit membrane-bound nucleus" and usually lack other cell organelles as well.[1] Unlike eukaryotes, the other major category of living organisms, some prokaryotes are able to fix atmospheric nitrogen.

"Despite the apparent, relative simplicity of prokaryotic cells, as a group they have the greater taxanomic and functional diversity. Globally, organic C in prokaryotes is equivalent to that in plants and they contain 10-fold more N. They also possess the most efficient dispersal and survival mechanisms. As a result, prokaryotes are of enormous importance in creating, maintaining, and functioning of the soil."[1]

Prokaryotes are capable of lateral (horizontal) gene transfer.

New Methods of Research

A past limitation to studying prokaryotes was that most studies focused on those that could be cultured in the lab. Now that new, molecular approaches have replaced cultivation-based techniques, scientists are learning much more about prokaryotes - including the revelation that many previous theories were wrong.

"For example, organisms that were previously considered to be "typical" soil organisms (bacilli, pseudomonads, actinobacteria) are often found at relatively low abundance, while some of the novel, "yet-to-be-cultured" organisms are ubiquitous and presence at high relative abundance (e.g., planctomycetes; Rappe and Giovannoni, 2003)."[1]

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 J. Prosser and Ken Killham. "Prokaryotes." In Soil Microbiology, Ecology, and Biochemistry, edited by Eldor A. Paul. Burlington, MA: Academic Press (Elsevier), 2007.

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