No bacterium is an island.
Many people think of bacteria as tiny Lone Rangers, paddling their flagellar canoes across the desolate petri dish sea. But in “the wild”, bacteria exist as complex, interwoven, constantly competing social communities.
Every scoop of soil is a battlefield of chemical chatter. Species send out molecular messages-in-a-bottle that ride the waves of diffusion to their mates. Some even thread electrical cables between neighboring cells. Now, new research has identified elaborate shared membranes that let single cells swarm as a superorganism …
Check out my latest article for Wired all about a soil bacterium named Myxococcus xanthus. It’s under everyone’s feet right now, and it has developed one of the most elaborate physical webs ever witnessed in bacteria. That’s it up top, devouring a colony of E. coli using its patented rippling wave attack.
It’s a stealth communication network that lets them hunt like a tiny wolfpack. So cool. Plus I got to use a GIF, so double win.
Once you’re done with that, check out this great TED talk from Bonnie Bassler all about how bacteria communicate.