Microbe Colonies Show Sophisticated Learning Behaviors
Microbes may be smarter than we think, at least that's according to Princeton University researchers who have shown for the first time that bacteria don't just react to changes in their surroundings - they anticipate and prepare for them. The findings, reported in Science, challenge the prevailing notion that only organisms with complex nervous systems have this ability.
The biologists and engineers who conducted the research used lab experiments to demonstrate this phenomenon in common bacteria. They also turned to computer simulations to explain how a microbe species' internal network of genes and proteins could evolve over time to produce such complex behavior.
"What we have found is the first evidence that bacteria can use sensed cues from their environment to infer future events," explained Saeed Tavazoie, a molecular biologist who conducted the study along with graduate student Ilias Tagkopoulos and post-doctoral researcher Yir-Chung Liu.