GPC Libraries -- Clarkston Library (JCLRC)
Step by Step with Bergey's Manual of Systematic Bacteriology

Step by Step with Bergey's Manual of Systematic Bacteriology


Bergey's is a multivolume set that offers complex and in depth information on prokaryotes, including both bacteria and archea. Prokaryotes are microorganisms that lack a nuclear cell membrane and chromosomes. Bergey's is a must for any interested student who wishes to learn about or to identify a specific species, genus, or family of prokaryote or to know more about prokaryote taxonomy in general.

  1. The library currently has two versions of Bergey's. The 1984 version, which is outdated, classifies bacteria and archea by their phenotype rather than their ribosomal RNA.

    The 2001 version, which is reasonably up to date, is not yet complete. It lacks volume five (5) and a cummulative index. If you do not find your prokaryote listed in its pages, use a current microbiology textbook along with the 1984 Bergey's. Also please ask both a librarian and your professor for help.

  2. If you are interested in prokaryote taxonomy, ecology, evolution, or in an order or phylum of bacteria or archea, access Bergey's via the table of contents. The new Bergey's has essays that may be especially helpful.

  3. If you are interested in a specific family, genus, or species of, bacteria use the index in the back of each volume of the new edition. Family and genera are emphasized, and species should be beneath them. If this is not the case, then your species is not listed.

  4. For those lucky enough to find articles on families, genera, and species these usually include the following:

    • The name of the taxon.
    • Its meaning in English.
    • A short description of the taxon with important information in bold face. This description also includes the C+G /mol DNA percentage, an important identifying characteristic.
    • A more extensive description that may include electron micrographs.
    • Purification and testing procedures.
    • Distinguishing or identifying characteristics.
    • A list of species, that often include tables.
    • A short list of additional readings.

    References listed within the text of each article, refer to a bibliography at the end of the volume.

  5. For students interested in testing for and isolating a particular bacteria, the testing and purification sections of each article are the most important. Many of these also include charts that indicate how species of bacteria grow under varying conditions and on different media.

  6. Bergey's can feel daunting. Please don't hesitate to ask a librarian for help with this resource.