Timesharing strategy in bacteria

Timesharing strategy in bacteria
 

Timesharing, researchers have found, isn't only for vacation properties.

While the idea of splitting getaway condos in exotic destinations among various owners has been popular in real estate for decades, biologists have discovered that communities of bacteria have been employing a similar strategy for millions of years.

Researchers asked what competing communities of bacteria might do when food becomes scarce. The team found that bacteria faced with limited nutrients will enter an elegant timesharing strategy in which communities alternate feeding periods to maximize efficiency in consumption. The study is published in the journal Science.

"What's interesting here is that you have these simple, single-celled bacteria that are tiny and seem to be lonely creatures, but in a community, they start to exhibit very dynamic and complex behaviors you would attribute to more sophisticated organisms or a social network," said the author. "It's the same timesharing concept used in computer science, vacation homes and a lot of social applications."

The new study investigates how two biofilm communities interact. Through mathematical models and laboratory evidence using microfluidic techniques and time-lapse microscopy, the researchers found that nearby biofilm communities will engage in synchronized behaviors through the electrical signals.

The experiments revealed that when biofilms faced scenarios of limited amounts of nutrients, they began to alternate their feeding periods to reduce competition and avoid "traffic jams" of consumption.

"These bacteria are just about everywhere--from your teeth to soil to drain pipes," said the author. "It's interesting to think that these simple organisms two billion years ago developed the same timesharing strategy that we humans are now using for all kinds of purposes,"

http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/pressrelease/uc_san_diego_biologists_discover_timesharing_strategy_in_bacteria

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2017/04/05/science.aah4204

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