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These Bacteria Are Wired to Hunt Like a Tiny Wolf Pack

There is an elaborate stealth communication network in the Earth beneath your feet. This smart web acts like a superorganism, fortifying defensive capabilities and coordinating deadly attacks on unsuspecting targets. But it’s not run by the NSA, the CIA, or the military. This web is made of bacteria.

A team of scientists led by Manfred Auer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have used cutting-edge 3-D microscopy to identify a new mechanism for bacterial networking. They observed elaborate webs of a common soil bacterium, Myxococcus xanthus, connected by thread-like membranes. This system of cellular pipelines suggests that some bacteria have evolved complex ways to deliver molecular cargo out of sight from snooping neighbors. Their work appears in the journal Environmental Microbiology.

Myxococcus xanthus biofilm devouring a colony of Escherichia coli. Credit: James Berlemanc

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