MadSci Network: General Biology

Re: What do nitrogen-fixing bacteria and lightning have in common?

Date: Wed Jul 26 09:46:59 2000
Posted By: Andrea Riegler, Grad student, Biological and Agricultural Engineering, North Carolina State University
Area of science: General Biology
ID: 964541860.Gb

That's a really good question . . . and I'm not sure what your professor is 
looking for but I do know one thing they have in common: both can split 
dinitrogen.  Dinitrogen, or N2, makes up 79% of our atmosphere and is 
colorless, odorless, non-toxic and incredibly stable.  Sounds great so far, 
but the problem is that in the N2 form, nitrogen is not available for 
organisms to use.  All living organisms NEED nitrogen - it is a key 
component of amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins.  
Nitrogen-fixing is the transformation of dinitrogen to biologically 
available nitrogen.  The global nitrogen cycle is complex but it basically 
comes down to atmospheric nitrogen being *fixed*, take up by organisms 
and eventually turned back into dinitrogen.  Without nitrogen fixation, 
the whole cycle would come to a halt and life as we know it would be 

In addition, lightning can split just about any atmospheric molecule 
including oxygen.  If you care to, you can look up how ozone is created by 
lightning here at the Earth's surface.  A good picture of what lightning is 
able to do to atmospheric molecules can be found at:

The text on this page is interesting but doesn't pertain to your question.  
I hope that helps!

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