Bacteria Use Electrical Zaps to Recruit Others to Their Slime Colonies

Image: lmnop88a/Flickr
Image: lmnop88a/Flickr
Bacterial colonies have the ability to communicate with each other over relatively long distances via a series of electrical zaps—and can actually use these signals to recruit other bugs to their massive slime “cities,” San Diego researchers say.

By Bryson Masse | MOTHERBOARD

Figuring out how these tiny creatures exchange information could be key in understanding our own microbiomes, and give us new ways to deal with the impending antibiotic resistance crisis. Beyond that, it’s another interesting window into bacterial life.

In a similar fashion to neurons, colonies called “biofilms” use potassium ion channels to regulate social interactions between bacteria in these massive groupings, and those nearby. This includes resolving conflicts, as this same team of researchers has previously shown.

Biofilms form when microorganisms collect on a surface, like a scummy rock or the bathtub you keep meaning to clean. They can be gatherings of one or more species of bacteria or other microbes, and are generally referred to even by researchers by their colloquial name: slime.

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