1. Watch out! Bacteria can see like human beings

Watch out! Bacteria can see like human beings

It has taken scientists over 300 years to finally figure out how bacteria "see" their world, and they do it in a remarkably similar way to us.

By: | Published: February 10, 2016 5:43 PM

It has taken scientists over 300 years to finally figure out how bacteria “see” their world, and they do it in a remarkably similar way to us.

The team of British and German researchers revealed how bacterial cells act as the equivalent of a microscopic eyeball or the world’s oldest and smallest camera eye.

“The idea that bacteria can see their world in basically the same way that we do is pretty exciting,” says lead researcher Conrad Mullineaux, professor of microbiology from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

Cyanobacteria are found in huge numbers in water bodies or can form a slippery green film on rocks and pebbles.

Synechocystis – the species used in the study – is found naturally in freshwater lakes and rivers.

Cyanobacteria evolved around 2.7 billion years ago and the fact that they are able to produce oxygen and fix carbon dioxide using energy from the sun (photosynthesis) is thought to have caused mass extinctions and the oldest known ice age.

The current study reveals that they are able to do this because the cell body acts like a lens.

As light hits the spherical surface, it refracts into a point on the other side of the cell. This triggers movement by the cell away from the focused spot.

Within minutes, the bacteria grow tiny tentacle-like structures called pili that reach out towards the light source.

As they attach to the surface that they’re on, they retract and pull the bacteria along.

The findings are most likely an example of convergent evolution between bacteria and more complex multi-cellular organisms including animals and humans.

“The physical principles for the sensing of light by bacteria and the far more complex vision in animals are similar but the biological structures are different,” noted co-author Annegret Wilde from the University of Freiburg in Germany in a paper that appeared in the journal eLife.

A Synechocystis cell is about half a billion times smaller than the human eye.

“No one else noticed it before despite the fact that scientists have been looking at bacteria under microscopes for the last 340 years,” Mullineaux pointed out.

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Tags: Bacteria
  1. Ma'aji Caleb
    Feb 10, 2016 at 3:35 pm
    Really Interesting and a good result, which on my view need revisited especially as bacteria (complex multi-cellular?)
    1. Binra
      Feb 10, 2016 at 3:01 pm
      Cells have specific receptors to their function. That it works is integral to function and how it works is supportive to that function. Human beings cannot 'see' in the same directness - for what is seen is always through an interpretative lens of 'mind' or conditionings. Thus a human can be conditioned to reverse its native functioning of attraction to nutrient and repulsion from toxin simply by a process of redefinitions arising from trauma that ociate nutrient with greater risk of pain than toxin. Thus we are 'free' to choose to deny the light and attract and protect a darkness by which true illumination is denied and a 'rogue cell' can usurp and subvert natural function to serve a parasitic and pathological destruction - and propagate itself as 'normal'.

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