In the series of essays The Language of Bacteria, we discussed some ways that bacteria are able to fight against us. Specifically, we know that bacteria can protect themselves under coated biofilms, or they can pass around genes to make them unresponsive to antibiotics.
Trek through the hills of the Northwest’s Sierra Nevada, and you will find red soils peppered with some smooth, waxy rocks called Serpentinite. Attractively streaked with greens and blues, serpentine, as it is locally known, is a type of metamorphic rock with quite the fascinating history. To begin, let’s take a glimpse into a chapter of geology known as Plate Tectonics.
When life begins, it starts as a zygote – a single cell with genetic material from two parents. The first job of that cell is to divide. Then those cells divide, and those cells divide, and on and on. As they divide, they get smaller and smaller, and the embryo remains the same size as the original zygote.
When Mt. St. Helens erupted in Washington State, the surrounding ecosystem was pulverized into a barren land of sterilized ashes. Plants couldn’t grow there, and without them, animals were absent.
But eventually, slowly and surely, life returned. How did this happen? It could only occur after the arrival of invisible life.
Today, doctors treat infections and diseases almost exclusively with antibiotics. However, bacteria have two big ways of fighting back: they can pass around genes for antibiotic resistance, and they can coat themselves under biofilms to keep antibiotics at bay. In this ongoing chess game, the move is now ours. What strategies should we take as we continue the fight for health among communicating superbugs?
In the last essay, we covered how bacteria share helpful genes with each other, and what that means for the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria (“superbugs”).
Another aspect of the bacterial world is that of chemicals and molecules. When you live in the world as a single cell, you cannot eat the kind of food we do, and you cannot interact with your environment the way we do.
What if I told you that bacteria can communicate? With each other, with bacteria of different species (and thus, of a different “language”), and even with you?
The human body is not just a matter of anatomy and physiology, of biology on an organismal and cellular level. Anatomy and physiology are each fascinating subjects. But there is so much more to explore.
Part of developmental biology studies how the environment affects the diversity and development of various organisms. Such factors can be abiotic, biotic, or symbiotic. Here, I focus on oceanic ecosystems and organisms to epitomize each type of factor and how they (in these cases) improve biodiversity.