Classification of Bacteria by Shapes & Characteristics (2023)

Bacteria are unicellular organisms present in the entire biosphere.

They have vital importance on earth and hence studied extensively in microbiology.

You can study them in detail in microbiology courses in medicine, pharmacy, and even basic biology.

These bacteria are unicellular (single-celled) organisms andare of microscopic and invisible to the naked eye.

The bacterial classification is one of the key factors to tackle them in disease.

The classification is done based on factors like their shape, nutrition requirement, cell wall staining, the cell appendages, etc.

Of these bacteria, those harmful and useful to humans are widely studied in medicine and pharmacy while those pathogenicbacteria which cause the diseaseto plants and animals are extensively studied in agriculture and animal husbandry sciences.

Some of the aspects of bacterial classification also help inthe identification of bacteria.

Classification of bacteria|by cell wall

The cell wall is a characteristic plant cell. Bacterial cell wall feature has features useful for classification.

You may also like the Differences between Bacterial cell and Human cell.

Staining: Cell wall of bacteria differs based on the layers in it. Gram stain is used to classify these bacteria based on the variation in the layers.

This bacterial cell wall is made of materials like the carbohydrates, proteins and lipids in varying proportions.

The gram staining helps in the differentiation of bacteria as gram-positive and gram-negative.

(Video) Taxonomy of Bacteria: Identification and Classification

In gram +ve bacteria there is a thicker peptidoglycan layer while gram -ve has less peptidoglycan and more of glycolipid membrane.

So when stained with grams stain, crystal violet, peptidoglycan retains it giving violet color to gram +ve bacteria. Gram-ve bacteria cannot retain this crystal violet and instead retains saffron color.

The gram stain consists of coloring dyes like crystal violet and saffron. When a bacteria culture is added with Gram’s stain, gram-positivebacteriashowviolet color, while gram-negative bacteriashow saffron color.

So, the bacterial species which take up the blue color during gram staining are called gram +ve and those which take up an orange are called gram -ve bacteria.

Classification of Bacteria by shape or cell structure

Cohn divided the bacterial into four types based on their shapes in 1872. They have a different cell structure, but most of them come under two basic shapes like bacillus or cocci. Check out the image below for an idea.

a) Bacillus: These are rod-shaped or filament-shaped bacteria. They are of four types like

i) Monobacillus: This is a single rod-shaped bacillus bacteria.

ii) Diplobaciullus: These are a pair of rod-shaped bacteria. Two bacteria cells stick together. They can also be present as four-celled as a tetrad.

iii) Streptobacilli: This is a chain of rod-shaped bacteria. Bacilli bacteria arranged like a long chain.

iv) Palisade: Here two cells of Bacillus are arranged side by side like sticks in a matchbox

b) Coccus: These are spherical shaped bacteria or oval shaped. Based on the number and their arrangement they are divided

i) Monococcus which is a single-celled round-shaped bacteria.

ii) Diplococci is two spherical shaped bacteria existing as pairs.

(Video) Bacteria Classification by Shape

iii) Streptococci is a chain of many round-shaped bacteria.

iv) Staphylococci is a group of spherical bacteria arranged like a bunch of grapes.

v) Sarcina is a type where 8 round-shaped bacteria are arranged in cubical shape.

c) Comma-shaped bacteria: Here is the bacteria is slightly bent and looks like a comma. Ex: Vibrio cholera bacteria causing cholera.

d) Spirillum bacteria: This is a long spiral-shaped bacteria. They are also called as spirochetes. These are spiral or hair like in shape. Ex: syphilis-causing bacteria.

e) Pleomorphism: Though most bacteria have a specific shape, some do not. They exist in multiple shapes. Examples include Acetobacter.

Classification of bacteria based on flagella presence

Flagella are appendages of movement for the bacteria. They emerge from the cell membrane. Not all bacteria have flagella but motile bacteria have flagella. Based on the number of flagella and also the bacterial location classification is done as below.

See the figure above for details.

Atrichous bacteria:With no flagella on the bacterial cell wall. These are non-motile bacteria

Monotrichous bacteria:With one single flagellum.

Classification of Bacteria by Shapes & Characteristics (3)

Amphitrichous bacteria: Two flagella on both sides of the cell

Peritrichous bacteria:Many flagella at different points

Lophotrichous bacteria:Flagella at one pole or point of the cell

(Video) Bacterial Structure and Functions

Flagella around the cell: Peritrichousbacteria. The flagella are present all over the cell wall.

Classification of bacteria based on nutrition requirements

Bacteria obtain nutrition in different forms. Because of this character, they contribute greatly to humans and the environment.

Check out: Use of Bacteria to humans and the environment.

Autotrophs: These are bacteria which prepare their own food. Due to the presence of chlorophyll like pigment they perform photosynthesis. They do this by using sunlight as the source of energy. Besides they take up CO2 and water from nature. This photosynthesis helps in the formation of carbohydrates. These carbohydrates provide energy. Ex: Chlorella.

Chemoautotrophs: As the name indicates they survive on chemicals. These are bacteria synthesize their own food by use of energy obtained from chemical sources. They differ from autotrophs in that they do not need sunlight.

Heterotrophs: These are bacteria whichdo notsynthesizetheir own food but obtain it from others. They can feed on food materials as animals do.

Symbiotic bacteria: (Sym + Biosis = Living together) These are bacteria which obtain food by living together with other organisms. They reside in mutualbeneficialsupport with others.

Ex: Rhizobium bacteria in leguminous plants. Here the bacteria fix nitrogen in rootsby absorbing it from the air. This nitrogen acts as a fertilizer to plant. In return, they take nutrition from the same plant. Another example is Enterobacteria in the intestine. Hence taking too many antibiotics kills the friendly bacteria in our gut causing problems to us.

Saprophytic bacteria: (sapro+phytes = rotten material + plant) These are bacteria survive by eating rotten material. They get their nutrition by consuming dead and decaying material. Thus thereby help incleaningtheenvironmentfrom the accumulation of waste.

“Imagine the world without them; it would have been a place full of dead bodies all around…:-)”

Pathogenicbacteria: (patho+genisis =disease + causing) These are bacteria responsible for diseases in humans and plants. They grow only in the body of other animals or plants. They get theirnutritionfrom the host. In doing so, they consume the vital living elements in them and induce diseases.

Classification based on the temperature dependence

This is quite an interesting method as they are differentiated based on their preference for the surrounding temperature.

Bacteria can grow at cold temperatures and even hot temperatures besides normal room temperatures. So, they are classified based on the temperature they can survive it. Like

(Video) Microbiology lecture 4 | bacteria size shape and arrangement

Thermophilic (thermo+phyllic=temperature loving); Thermophilic bacteria are those which can survive at a high temperature of 45 to 60-degree temperatures

mesothermic (medium+thermic= medium temperature) can survive at 25 to 45 degrees

Hypothermic (hypo = low ) These bacteria survive at low temperatures like 8 degrees or even less.

In common most bacteria survive between 25 to 45 degrees, i.e., they are mesotherms.

Classification based on oxygen requirement.

Not all bacteria require oxygen to survive. Some can survive without oxygen. These are the microbes considered to be immortals due to cell division. But this feature adds even more weight to it.

Based on oxygen dependence, they are either

Aerobic: Which requires oxygen to survive.

Anaerobic bacteria: These bacteria do not require oxygen for survival. They are further as two types

Obligate anaerobes: They survive in the absence of oxygen. But when exposed to oxygen they die.

Facultative anaerobes: These also survive in environments without oxygen, but when exposed to oxygen they can survive.

Classification of bacteria into different phyla is done as pertaxonomy, i.e., scientific nomenclature.

Also, see Identification of bacteria


What are the characteristics for classification of bacteria? ›

In most systems of bacterial classification, the major groups are distinguished by fundamental characters such as cell shape, Gram-stain reaction and spore formation; genera and species are usually distinguished by properties such as fermentation reactions, nutritional requirements and pathogenicity.

What are the 4 shape of bacteria? ›

There are four common forms of bacteria-coccus,bacillus,spirillum and vibrio. Coccus form:- These are spherical bacteria. Streptococcus pneumonaie, the bacterium that causes pneumonia in human beings,is a coccus bacterium. Bacillus form:- These are rod-shaped bacteria.

What are the 3 types of bacteria and their identifying shapes? ›

Individual bacteria can assume one of three basic shapes: spherical (coccus), rodlike (bacillus), or curved (vibrio, spirillum, or spirochete).

What are the 5 characteristics of bacteria? ›

Five characteristics of bacteria include being unicellular, prokaryotic, microscopic, lacking a nucleus, and having a plasma membrane. These traits are shared by all bacteria.

What are the 4 main characteristics of classification? ›

Characteristics such as appearance, reproduction, mobility, and functionality are just a few ways in which living organisms are grouped together.

What is bacteria and its characteristics? ›

Bacteria are microscopic, single-celled organisms that exist in their millions, in every environment, both inside and outside other organisms. Some bacteria are harmful, but most serve a useful purpose. They support many forms of life, both plant and animal, and they are used in industrial and medicinal processes.

What are the 5 types of morphology of bacteria? ›

Different shapes of bacteria
  • Spherical- Cocci.
  • Rod-shaped- Bacilli.
  • Spiral bacteria.
  • Comma shaped- Vibrio.

What are the 3 main types of bacteria? ›

The three common types of bacteria are: Cocci (spherical bacteria) Bacilli (rod-shaped bacteria) Spirilla (spiral bacteria)

What are the 10 types of bacteria? ›

Top Ten Bacteria
  • Deinococcus radiodurans.
  • Myxococcus xanthus. ...
  • Yersinia pestis. ...
  • Escherichia coli. ...
  • Salmonella typhimurium. ...
  • Epulopiscium spp. The big boy of the kingdom – about as large as this full stop. ...
  • Pseudomonas syringae. Dreaming of a white Christmas? ...
  • Carsonella ruddii. Possessor of the smallest bacterial genome known, C. ...
5 Dec 2008

What are the 7 characteristics of bacteria? ›

What Are the Characteristics Common to All Bacteria?
  • Single-Celled. Perhaps the most straightforward characteristic of bacteria is their existence as single-celled organisms. ...
  • Absent Organelles. ...
  • Plasma Membrane. ...
  • Cell Walls. ...
  • DNA.
10 Mar 2018

What are the 7 levels of classification for bacteria? ›

In prokaryotic taxonomy, the overall classification system is a hierarchic grouping. It concerns from highest to the lowest: domain, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species, and subspecies. Prokaryotic systematics is a scientific discipline that evolves with the technological tools that become available.

Who is father of bacteria? ›

Leeuwenhoek is universally acknowledged as the father of microbiology. He discovered both protists and bacteria [1].

What are the 5 types of classification? ›

What are the different levels of classification? The organisms are classified according to the following different levels- Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species.

What are the 8 different types of classification? ›

Levels of Classification. The classification system commonly used today is based on the Linnean system and has eight levels of taxa; from the most general to the most specific, these are domain, kingdom, phylum (plural, phyla), class, order, family, genus (plural, genera), and species.

What are the 3 types of classification? ›

Classification is defined as placing and arranging the known species into different groups or taxa according to similarities and dissimilarities. The three types of classification are Artificial classification, Natural classification, and Phylogenetic classification.

What are the four characteristics bacteria are characterized by? ›

Features that distinguish a bacterial cell from a eukaryotic cell include the circular DNA of the nucleoid, the lack of membrane-bound organelles, the cell wall of peptidoglycan, and flagella.

How do you remember the characteristics of bacteria? ›

Bacteria are single celled organisms.
Use the mnemonic “CLAP”:
  1. C – Clostridium.
  2. L – Lactobacillus.
  3. A – Actinomyces.
  4. P – Propionibacterium.

Does bacteria have all 8 Characteristics of life? ›

Bacteria, plants, fungi, mammals – they perform all eight functions and characteristics. Things on the edge of life, such as viruses, may have some of these traits, but not all eight.

What are the 7 characteristics of bacterial colony morphology? ›

Characteristics of a colony such as shape, edge, elevation, color and texture. When recording colony morphology, it is important to also record color, optical properties (translucence, sheen) and texture (moist, mucoid or dry).

What are different types of bacteria explain with diagram? ›

Classification of bacteria based on Shape
Type of ClassificationExamples
Bacillus (Rod-shaped)Escherichia coli (E. coli)
Spirilla or spirochete (Spiral)Spirillum volutans
Coccus (Sphere)Streptococcus pneumoniae
Vibrio (Comma-shaped)Vibrio cholerae

What are the two main classifications of bacteria? ›

Bacteria may be roughly divided into gram-positive bacteria and gram-negative bacteria based on the two different types of cell walls they have. The names come from how cells respond to the Gram stain, an established technique for identifying different bacterial species.

What are 5 examples of bacteria? ›

Here are seven types of bacteria to be concerned about as you fill up your next glass of water:
  • 1) Escherichia Coli. Escherichia Coli (also known as E. ...
  • 2) Campylobacter Jejuni. ...
  • 3) Hepatitis A. ...
  • 4) Giardia Lamblia. ...
  • 5) Salmonella. ...
  • 6) Legionella Pneumophila. ...
  • 7) Cryptosporidium.
4 May 2018

How many types of bacterias are there? ›


What are the 5 most common bacteria? ›

The top five germs that cause illnesses from food eaten in the United States are:
  • Norovirus.
  • Salmonella.
  • Clostridium perfringens.
  • Campylobacter.
  • Staphylococcus aureus (Staph)
18 Mar 2020

What are the 6 major groups of bacteria? ›

The major groups of microorganisms—namely bacteria, archaea, fungi (yeasts and molds), algae, protozoa, and viruses—are summarized below.

How are bacteria named and classified? ›

Bacteria are classified and identified to distinguish one organism from another and to group similar organisms by criteria of interest to microbiologists or other scientists. The most important level of this type of classification is the species level. A species name should mean the same thing to everyone.

What are 5 characteristics of bacterial colony morphology? ›

Characteristics of a colony such as shape, edge, elevation, color and texture. When recording colony morphology, it is important to also record color, optical properties (translucence, sheen) and texture (moist, mucoid or dry).

What is the classification of these bacteria? ›

The structure of bacteria is known for its simple body design. Bacteria are single-celled microorganisms with the absence of the nucleus and other cell organelles; hence, they are classified as prokaryotic organisms.

How do you remember the classification of bacteria? ›

Bacteria can also be classified based on their shapes.
Use the mnemonic “CLAP”:
  1. C – Clostridium.
  2. L – Lactobacillus.
  3. A – Actinomyces.
  4. P – Propionibacterium.


1. Classification of bacteria on the basis of Morphology | Shapes of bacteria |
(PoWer Of KnOwledge Academy)
2. Classification of Bacteria
(Nafisa Harianawala)
3. Classification of Bacteria (Antibiotics - Lecture 1)
(Strong Medicine)
4. Classification of Bacteria | Different shapes of Bacteria
(Learn in 200 Seconds)
5. Classification of Bacteria on the basis of their shapes ll Microbiology ll chapter-1
(Star Tutorial)
6. General Characteristics of Bacteria | size and shape of bacteria | classification of bacteria
(lore and lit)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Merrill Bechtelar CPA

Last Updated: 01/14/2023

Views: 6016

Rating: 5 / 5 (50 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Merrill Bechtelar CPA

Birthday: 1996-05-19

Address: Apt. 114 873 White Lodge, Libbyfurt, CA 93006

Phone: +5983010455207

Job: Legacy Representative

Hobby: Blacksmithing, Urban exploration, Sudoku, Slacklining, Creative writing, Community, Letterboxing

Introduction: My name is Merrill Bechtelar CPA, I am a clean, agreeable, glorious, magnificent, witty, enchanting, comfortable person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.