The idea that this film of bacteria oxidizes the alcohol beneath by merely condensing atmospheric oxygen in its interstices, after the manner of spongy platinum, has long been given up; but the explanation of the action as an incomplete combustion, depending on the peculiar respiration of these organisms - much as in the case of nitrifying and sulphur bacteria - is not clear, though the discovery that the acetic bacteria will not only oxidize alcohol to acetic acid, but further oxidize the latter to CO 2 and 01-1 2 supports the view that the alcohol is absorbed by the organism and employed as its respirable substance.
Beyerinck has shown that Spirillum desulphuricans, a definite anaerobic form, attacks and reduces sulphates, thus undoing the work of the sulphur bacteria as certain de-nitrifying bacteria reverse the operations of nitro-bacteria.
Considerable advances in our knowledge of the various chromogenic bacteria have been made by the studies of Beyerinck, Lankester, Engelmann, Ewart and others, and have assumed exceptional importance owing to the discovery that Bacteriopurpurin - the red colouring matter contained in certain sulphur bacteria - absorbs certain rays of solar energy, and enables the organism to utilize the energy for its own life-purposes.
Amylobacter can ferment cellulose, and the case of mud bacteria which evolve sulphuretted hydrogen below which is utilized by sulphur bacteria above has already been quoted, as also that of Winogradsky's Clostridium III.
Beyerinck and Jegunow have shown that some partially anaerobic sulphur bacteria can only exist in strata at a certain depth below the level of quiet waters where SH 2 is being set free below by the bacterial decompositions of vegetable mud and rises to meet the atmospheric oxygen coming down from above, and that this zone of physiological activity rises and falls with the variations of partial pressure of the gases due to the rate of evolution of the SH 2.