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cell size

K N and P J Harris ecoli at cix.compulink.co.uk
Wed May 1 08:57:40 EST 1996

> ==========
> bionet/plants #1158, from kapib01 at commlink.zdv.uni-tuebingen.de, 1606 
chars, Thu  25 Apr 1996 07:53:57 +0
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> Article: 9679 of bionet.plants
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> From: martin adler <kapib01 at commlink.zdv.uni-tuebingen.de>
> Newsgroups: bionet.plants
> Subject: Re: cell size
> Date: Thu, 25 Apr 1996 07:53:57 +0200
> Organization: InterNetNews at ZDV Uni-Tuebingen
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<gkharris-2404961022320001 at mtshasta32.sisnet.ssku.k12.ca.us> 
> On Wed, 24 Apr 1996, Gavin/Kim Harrison wrote:
> > 
> >    I have recently received mail on a question I posted earlier this 
> > about surface area/ volume ratios.  The letter I received stated 
> > bacterial cells have the highest surface area/volume ratio.  Is this
> > true?  
> if the shape is the same, the smaller the particle, the higher the
> surface/volume area. its just mathematics, you can try it with cubes
> or spheres.
>      The project I am currently working on deals with the efficiency 
> > cells depending on their surface area or volume.  Are cells more 
> > if their S/V ratio is greater?  Is there an ideal S/V ratio?  Your 
help is
> > appreciated.
> efficient in what? ideal what for?
> cheers,
> martin adler
For anything approaching a self-contained cell capable of independent 
existence - yes I reckon the bacteria have it for greatest surface to 
volume ratio. But and it may be a big BUT - they may not be the most 
They are very good at spreading their adsorptive surface around within 
an environment - therefore they have a better chance than most at 
intercepting any goodies around. But (again a big BUT) if you have a 
very high surface to volume ratio you must also spend a great deal of 
effort in keeping your "insides" the way you want them. In other words 
you will lose efficiency because you are so small and so much at the 
mercy of external changes.

Like most things "it's a trade off". Fungi seem to be much more 
"efficient" in terms of carbon assimilation than bacteria (rough figures 
10 to 30 percent for fungi compared with 2 to 8 percent for bacteria) 
but the bacteria are still hanging in there.

You can carry this argument on into predators and up through the whole 
biological chain. Not room here though.
Good luck.

Peter Harris,
Department of Soil Science
(Microbial Ecologist and Iconoclast)
University of Reading,

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