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A New Painting Of Van Gogh? No, “Simple” Mutant Bacteria

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By studying a bacterium known as Myxococcus xanthus, researchers have noticed that these creatures self-organise themselves in small circular swarms. By coloring these small circular “groups,” very interesting results are given, similar to Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night.

“Our work highlights the interactions of a social bacterium, known for its rich sources of natural therapeutic products and as biocontrol agents for crops, which acts as a powerful model for the study of emerging behaviors that also show artistic beauty,” says microbiologist Daniel Wall of

M. xanthus is described as a social bacterium because it needs to find and recognize relatives to survive. After forming a real group with its “similars,” the whole of bacteria attack the victim to feed, and each cell produces digestive enzymes that facilitate the feeding of predators.

Once a bacterium has “glued” to the rest of the family via two receptors (TraA and TraB), the creature can exchange nutrients and proteins with the rest of the group. An “overdose” of these two receptors also prevents bacteria from “disconnecting” and changing direction (by the way, do you know that there are bacteria that can be left without food for 100,000 years?). By performing this scenario in computational models, the authors were able to verify their impression.

Thus, as well as a fascinating discovery, it also gives life to a real work of art. Not only in the world of bacteria, there are also creatures that recall the paintings of van Gogh.

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