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Bergey's Manual of Systematic/Determinative Bacteriology

Bergey's Determinative and Systematic Bacteriology Manuals are essential tools in determining and studying bacteria. This LibGuide will provide information on finding and using them.

START HERE: overview

  1. Use Bergey's Determinative (ie the pink volumes) to determine which organism you have.
  2. Find your organism in Systematic to learn about the organism itself.
  3. Use the newer 2001 edition first. If you cannot find it there...
  4. ...then go to the 1984 edition. 

STEP ONE: Bergey's Determinative, 9th ed.

Bergey's manual of determinative bacteriology, 9th ed., Sci Ref QR81 .A5 1993

This is the first place you will look in order to determine which bacterium you have. You will do this by searching for shape and size of cells, arrangement of cells, stain results, presence of capsules, endospores, or flagella, and growth preferences (e.g. aerobic versus anaerobic, optimal temperature).

  1. Find your genus in the index. Use Table 2, pp. 142-155 (under “Roadmap”) in volume 1, to find which volume contains each genus. Choose the page number listed in boldface type. This will lead you to a brief description of the entire genus which is usually about 1/4 - 1/2 page long.
  2. Species are listed alphabetically by genus in the index. Under each entry, the pages listed in bold are the ones specifically useful for that species; others may refer to pages on which this bacterium is listed just in a footnote.
  3. If a genus includes more than one species, characteristics common to all species are listed under the genus heading in the text entry. Then each species follows alphabetically, with additional information particular to that species. Much of your information is under the genus!
  4. You may NOT find every piece of information for every species. Sometimes you will have to interpret what is written to find an answer. If you have any questions, please ask your instructor(s).

Once you have figured out which organism you have, use Bergey's Manual of Systematic Bacteriology (either edition is OK, except that Helicobacter was not described in time to make the 1984 edition) to find specific information about your organisms such as cultural characteristics, ecological aspects, and disease notes. In these sets, the descriptions under genus names may run several pages.

STEP TWO-a: Bergey's Systematic, 2001

Bergey's Manual of Systematic Bacteriology, 2nd ed. (published in 5 volumes but BSU Libraries has only the first 2 currently). Sci Ref QR81 .B46

Purpose: classification, cultural characteristics, disease (not primarily identification).

Organized by newer (molecular-based) classification systems.

Volume contents:

  1. Archaea, deeply branching and phototropic bacteria (few human diseases), issued in 2001. *Note: Of special use for “road map” on pages 142-155 (tells which volume and classification each genus of bacteria is in, or in which it is expected to be…).
  2. Proteobacteria (most of the gram-negative bacteria), issued in 2005 – considered one volume but actually published as three separate books:
    1. Part 1, pp. 1-304: introductory essays.
    2. Part 2, pp. 305-1106: Gamma-proteobacteria – includes the family Enterobacteriaceae (Enterobacter, Escherichia, Klebsiella, Proteus, Salmonella, Serratia, Shigella, Yersinia); also Haemophilus, Legionella, Pseudomonas, Vibrio.
    3. Part 3, pp. 1107-1388:
      1. Alpha-proteobacteria – Rickettsia.
      2. Beta-proteobacteria – Bordetella, Neisseria.
      3. Delta-proteobacteria – (none on project list).
      4. Epsilon-proteobacteria – Campylobacter, Helicobacter.
  3. Firmicutes (low molecular % G-C, Gram-positive bacteria; mollicutes) – Bacillus, Clostridium, Listeria, Mycoplasma, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus.
  4. A variety of other bacteria, e.g., many of the remaining Gram-negative species, the spirochetes (Borrelia, Treponema), and Chlamydiae (Chlamydia).
  5. Actinobacteria (some high %G+C Gram-positive bacteria, Corynebacterium, Mycobacterium, Nocardia(?); some others are important as antibiotic producers).

STEP TWO-b (or THREE): Bergey's Systematic, 1984

Bergey's Manual of Systematic Bacteriology, 1984 edition, 4 volumes. Sci Ref QR81 .B46


Purpose: classification, cultural characteristics, diseases (see Bergey's Determinative for primary identification).

Master index:  Located in volume 4. Indexes in volumes 1, 2, and 3 refer only to species found in those volumes.

The page or pages specifically devoted to a certain genus or species are in bold face print. Pages not in bold may only refer to a genus or species in a list or footnote or by comparison.

Bacteria are mostly in the same order as Manual of Determinative Bacteriology, except that the Tenericutes (Mycoplasmas) have been moved ahead of the Firmicutes, and the Actinobacteria are separated into the last volume.

 Indexes list bacteria in alphabetical order both by...

  • Generic name (e.g., Escherichia) with genus description first and then separate listings for each species, alphabetically.
  • Specific epithet. Note: all species with the 2nd name “coli” are listed in the following manner:
    • Bacillus coli – no longer considered a valid species name; rather this is a former name (“synonym”) of E. coli.
    • Campylobacter coli.
    • Escherichia coli (E. coli).
    • Vibrio coli – no longer a valid species name; a former name of Campylobacter coli.

Thus, looking under Bacillus coli or Vibrio coli will tell you nothing new – you can tell which name is still in valid use by whether or not some of the page numbers are in bold-face print.

Volume contents:

  1. Spirochetes (Borrelia, Treponema), Gram-negative bacteria, Rickettsias and Chlamydias, and Mycoplasmas, pgs. 1-964.
  2. Firmicutes (Gram-positive bacteria), pp. 965-1600.
  3. Variety of bacteria including photosynthetic species, nitrifying bacteria, budding bacteria, and archaea, pgs. 1601-2298. Few of these cause human disease.
  4. Actinobacteria (formerly actinomycetes), pgs. 2299-2648. Some species are of medical interest as producers of antibiotics; only significant disease organism is Nocardia (updated from section 17 in volume 2).

Note: Some bacteria may not appear in any volume. For example, Helicobacter pylori (misspelled as Heliobacter on some copies) is a species that was not known to science until after this edition was published. Thus, you will not be able to find any information on it in the 1984 Bergey’s Manual of Systematic Bacteriology and will need to consult the 2001 edition.