September 28, 2012
Predatory Bacterial Crowdsourcing
Scientists at Rice University and the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Medical School have discovered how one of the world’s smallest predators — the soil bacteria Myxococcus xanthus — cooperates to form millions-strong waves that engulf prey. In a September 2012 study in PLOS Computational Biology, the researchers showed that a computer model could recreate M. xanthus’ wave patterns when cells were programmed to follow three simple rules: when two cells moving toward one another have side-to-side contact, they exchange a signal that causes one of them to reverse; a time interval after each reversal during which cells cannot reverse again; and physical interactions that cause the cells to align.
credit: O. Igoshin/Rice University