Eleven authors writing in PLOS Biology found that “γ-proteobacteria eject their polar flagella under nutrient depletion, retaining flagellar motor relic structures.” When there’s nothing to eat, these bacteria are willing to toss off their flagella and plug the hole in order to save energy. If you were out on a lake, would you unlatch your new Yamaha F250 4.2-liter V6 outboard motor and let it drop to the bottom? You might if the boat was taking on water and was about to sink, and you were about to die. …
The scientists confirmed that the remnants found are truly discarded relics of flagella, not assembly intermediates. Bacteria, unlike boats, contain the instructions and toolkits for building new flagella “outboard motors” when conditions improve. The bacteria that this team studied were observed under conditions of nutrient depletion. Pieces of flagella were found everywhere, and each hole had a plug in it. One can imagine a boater’s safety instruction book saying, “Warning: in case of emergency, disconnect the motor and let it go. Plug the hole with any substance on hand. Failure to do so may cause death.” “Darwin Devolves, Again: Study Finds Bacteria Eject Their Flagella to Avoid Starvation” at Evolution News and Science Today:
The eleven authors, of course, spin away the design inference, at least in their own minds, which is what counts.
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See also: Survival at a price: Bacteria cut off flagella to stay alive