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July 18, 2014 9:51 PM   Subscribe


 
Huh.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:14 PM on July 18 [4 favorites]


I don't know where I first heard this but: "First rule of evolution, wherever there is something to eat, there is something trying to eat it."
posted by Grimgrin at 11:14 PM on July 18 [4 favorites]


This is one of those things that seems awesomely weird when you first start to think about it, and then you remember that there is a whole kingdom that does the same thing with photons and I'm sitting here producing my own electricity from glucose and that we take those totally for granted.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:17 PM on July 18 [14 favorites]


I had no idea this particular group existed! Crazy.
posted by tavella at 12:17 AM on July 19


I'll have the electrons in béarnaise sauce with braised red cabbage and balsamic roasted potatoes.

No, wait… just bring the electrons. And hold the béarnaise.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:37 AM on July 19


OK, as humans, we have the duty to shoot protons at these fuckers. These are our electrons, bitches.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 2:02 AM on July 19 [1 favorite]


Pretty, pretty cool.
posted by billiebee at 4:55 AM on July 19


Hattifatteners are real?
posted by charismatic megafauna at 6:35 AM on July 19


I wonder if you could design a microchip that would be a sort of playground or flea circus for these things. Train them to jump through microhoops!
posted by moonmilk at 6:41 AM on July 19 [2 favorites]


"Life, uh, uh, finds a way"
posted by kcds at 7:11 AM on July 19 [2 favorites]


Interesting... But you can't 'grow' on electrons alone. They're going to have to get their neutrons and protons from somewhere: those critters are eating stuff somewhere along the line.
posted by Devonian at 7:22 AM on July 19 [1 favorite]


"Eating" in the same way that plants are eating carbon dioxide, maybe. They're autotrophic. They are using the electrons to make ATP, and they use the metals that they oxidize as the reducing agent to fix carbon.

You could still culture them on electrons alone, I think; they would not be able to gain mass and reproduce, right, but they don't have to do that constantly. They don't *have* to grow. But in the article, when they're growing them on electrodes -- the electrodes are metal, the bacteria "eat" metal, so they're wearing down the electrodes while they're sitting there.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 7:58 AM on July 19


Wait, no, I reread the abstract and it's clear that the cells are doing cell division and are *not* taking in any metal atoms nor making their characteristic rust stalks. Yeah, I don't know what the fuck. Insects are way more sensible.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 7:59 AM on July 19 [2 favorites]


From the article I just linked, which is open access, "The existence of cellular machinery able to link Fe(II) oxidation to internal metabolism has long suggested that cells could use electrical resources to power the synthesis of organic compounds. Bacteria active at this bioelectrical interface are capable of multi-step enzymatic redox reactions that would be difficult to achieve with precious metals." So, yes, they're JUST using the electrons to fix carbon from ambient carbon dioxide. That's all. Just electrons and CO2.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 8:03 AM on July 19 [6 favorites]


C'mon, we gotta get one of these species systematically named johnsmallberries. It's only proper.
posted by scruss at 8:49 AM on July 19 [2 favorites]


These are like the hardest thing to jump over in Super Mario World.
posted by sexyrobot at 10:57 AM on July 19


So it is possible that we could have electrically powered bacterial fixing and storing carbon from the air? Solar power the things... and it's like a plant, but more controllable.
posted by MikeWarot at 11:44 AM on July 19 [2 favorites]


Weaponized in 3... 2... 1...
posted by Splunge at 12:36 PM on July 19


I'm not particularly surprised. I only started reading the new scientist article, but, I had to come back and ask...

Anybody notice this:

"This is why when someone suffocates another person they are dead within minutes. "

Not "When someone suffocates" or "Someone stops breathing" no... It's specifically about someone suffocating someone else"... It seemed a bit particularly violent language to use compared to many other ways one could state the same principle, and I now kinda wonder...

What is that scientist hiding in his basement, anyway?
posted by symbioid at 1:13 PM on July 19 [3 favorites]


Energy and carbon (and oxygen) - no problem. What about nitrogen for building proteins (and hydrogen, CHON is considered the basic elements needed by terrestrial living things)?

Having to make all kinds of cofactors from scratch would be really inefficient as well (not to mention trace minerals for enzymes and said cofactors). Eating other things that make cofactors is more efficient.
posted by porpoise at 1:25 PM on July 19


Energy and carbon (and oxygen) - no problem. What about nitrogen for building proteins (and hydrogen, CHON is considered the basic elements needed by terrestrial living things)?

Having to make all kinds of cofactors from scratch would be really inefficient as well (not to mention trace minerals for enzymes and said cofactors). Eating other things that make cofactors is more efficient.


Based on the Bond group's paper, these guys are grown on NMCA minimal medium with zero-valent iron. This medium includes not only a carbon source (carbonate) and a nitrogen source (ammonium) but cofactors (in the form of "NCMA Medium 6: Wolfe’s Vitamin Solution" as well as "NCMA Medium 7: Mineral Solution" which is pretty much trace metals.) You can control the atmosphere pretty carefully in the GasPak 150 jars, speaking from experience; when they say they flush the jars with a O2-CO2-N2 mix (8:10:82), that's probably pretty accurate (and provides additional oxygen and nitrogen sources that the bacteria may or may not be able to utilize, along with the carbon dioxide.)

So they've got their CHON, their metals, and their cofactors coming from the medium, unless the group was actually modifying the minimal medium recipe in a way that the paper does not mention. Based on my experience with other weird bacteria, I'd hazard a guess that if their native environments alone do not provide the relevant (soluble) metals and cofactors, and if they lack the machinery to (inefficiently) produce them on their own, they may well live in communities with other bacterial species that do produce, say, B12 or siderophores to leach metals from insoluble sources or what have you. (In any case, bacteria with weird skills like this are often not optimized for fast, efficient growth, but for surviving - possibly mostly alone - under weird conditions.)
posted by ubersturm at 2:16 PM on July 19 [5 favorites]


MetaFilter: surviving - possibly mostly alone - under weird conditions.
posted by lenny70 at 4:06 PM on July 19 [1 favorite]


First rule of evolution, wherever there is something to eat, there is something trying to eat it.

When you find the thing that eats earwigs, send them over here.
posted by maxwelton at 11:53 PM on July 19


When you find the thing that eats earwigs, send them over here.

Spiders! Spiders eat earwigs!
posted by lisp witch at 5:40 PM on July 20 [1 favorite]


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