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“Fairly sophisticated” bacterial communications pose stark question re evolution

bacterial communities communicate by “percolation”/Suel Lab, UC San Diego

From ScienceDaily:

A concept known as ‘percolation’ is helping microbiologists explain how communities of bacteria can effectively relay signals across long distances. Once regarded as a simple cluster of microorganisms, communities of bacteria have been found to employ a strategy we use to brew coffee and extract oil from the sea. Percolation helps the microscopic community thrive and survive threats, such as chemical attacks from antibiotics.

Biofilm communities inhabit locations all around us, from soil to drain pipes to the surface of our teeth. Cells at the edge of these communities tend to grow more robustly than their interior counterparts because they have access to more nutrients. To keep this edge growth in check and ensure the entire community is fit and balanced, the “hungry” members of the biofilm interior send electrochemical signals to members at the exterior. These signals halt consumption at the edge, allowing nutrients to pass through to the interior cells to avoid starvation.

“This keeps the interior fed well enough and if a chemical attack comes and takes out some of the exterior cells, then the protected interior is able to continue and the whole population can survive,” said Larkin, a UC San Diego Biological Sciences postdoctoral scholar. “It is essential that the electrochemical signal be consistently transmitted all the way to the biofilm edge because that is the place where the growth must be stopped for the community to reap the most benefit from signalling.”

“It’s interesting that these bacteria, which are so-called simple, single-cell organisms, are using a fairly sophisticated strategy to solve this community-level problem,” said Larkin. “It’s sophisticated enough that we humans are using it to extract oil, for example.” (open access) – Joseph W. Larkin, M. Süel et al., Signal Percolation within a Bacterial Community, Cell July 25, 2018 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cels.2018.06.005 More.

Image: Extremophilic Microbial Mats
microbial mats/Randolph Femmer, USGS

Yes, it is “interesting” that bacteria use such a sophisticated strategy to keep feeding a colony. That raises a question: If microbial mats have been around for three and a half billion years, did they not encounter some of the same basic physical problems as described in this research?

If the mats did not have this “fairly sophisticated strategy” then, what strategy were they using? If they did have it, how did they just somehow happen to evolve a sophisticated strategy by natural selection acting on random mutations (Darwinism) within a specific, limited time frame?

More research, less Darwinism.

See also: Microbial mats show fossil structures from 3.5 billion years ago

Does it pose a stark question for evolution? Think about it. We can all be viewed as extremely sophisticated, closely integrated communities of trillions of highly specialized cells. If multi-cellular beings such as ourselves reached this state through a process of evolution then at sometime in the dim and distant past our ancestors would have been much simpler and more loosely-integrated entities. Maybe these bacterial films are a window into the very early stages of multicellular development. Seversky
Learning from Bacteria about Social Networks - video Description: Bacteria do not store genetically all the information required to respond efficiently to all possible environmental conditions. Instead, to solve new encountered problems (challenges) posed by the environment, they first assess the problem via collective sensing, then recall stored information of past experience and finally execute distributed information processing of the 109-12 bacteria in the colony,,, I will show illuminating movies of swarming intelligence of live bacteria in which they solve optimization problems for collective decision making that are beyond what we, human beings, can solve with our most powerful computers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJpi8SnFXHs

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