New videos have caught bacteria in the act of a completely new behavior. A study appearing in the Dec. 14 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that Shewanella cells briefly touch an electron-accepting surface, lift off and swim furiously, and then return to the metal surface.
The researchers call this flighty new behavior electrokinesis, and think it may be a way for bacteria to dump built-up electrons before taking off in search of food, much like a whale surfacing for a breath before diving. Understanding this frenetic movement may help scientists design better microbial fuel cells, which harness these electron-shuttling bacteria to produce energy.
Note: To comment, Science News subscribing members must now establish a separate login relationship with Disqus. Click the Disqus icon below, enter your e-mail and click “forgot password” to reset your password. You may also log into Disqus using Facebook, Twitter or Google.