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CHARACTERIZATION, CLASSIFICATION AND TAXONOMY OF MICROBES 63

(i) Morphological characteristics


(ii) Chemical characteristics
(iii) Cultural characteristics
(iv) Metabolic characteristics
(v) Antigenic characteristics
(vi) Genetic characteristics
(vii) Pathogenicity, and
(viii) Ecological characteristics.
The aforesaid categories of characteristics shall now be treated individually in the sections that
follow :

3.2.1. Morphological Characteristics

Morphology refers to the science of structure and form of organisms without any regard to their
function. The morphological determinations invariably require the intensive studies of the individual
cells of a pure culture. The microorganisms being of very small size are usually expressed in microm-
μ m)*.
eters (μ
Interestingly, the morphological characteristic features are relatively easier to analyze and study,
specifically in the eukaryotic microorganisms as well as the more complex prokaryotes. However, the
morphological comparisons amongst the microbes play an important and vital role by virtue of the fact
that their major structural features exclusively depend upon the prevailing expression of several genes.
In fact, they are found to be fairly stable genetically, and hence fail to undergo drastic variation in
response to the environmental alterations. Therefore, morphological similarity serves as an essential
novel indicator with regard to phylogenetic **relationship.
However, the ‘morphological characteristics’ frequently employed in the classification and
identification of certain microbial groups vis-a-vis their structural features are enumerated as under:
S. No. Characteristic Features Microbial Groups
1 Cell size Most major categories
2 Cell shape —do—
3 Cellular inclusions —do—
4 Cilia and flagella —do—
5 Colonial morphology —do—
6 Colour —do—
7 Endospore shape and location Endospore forming microbes
8 Mode of motility Spirochaetes, gliding microbes
9 Spore morphology and location Algae, fungi, microbes,
10 Pattern of staining Microbes, certain fungi
11 Ultrastructural characteristic features Most major categories

* 1 μm = 0.001 millimeter (mm) or ≡ 0.00004 inches. It may be carried out either with the help of a high-
power microscope or an electron microscope (which provides magnification of thousands of diameters
and enables to see more refined/detailed cellular structure(s).
** Concerning the development of a race or phylum.