Sweet beaks: What Galapagos finches and marine bacteria have in common

The variety of finch species on the remote Galapagos Islands is the most prominent example for Charles Darwin’s and Alfred R. Wallace’s theory of evolution through natural selection. Galapagos finch species have developed distinct beak sizes and shapes and thereby have adapted to different food sources. This exemplifies how even closely related species can effectively … Read more Sweet beaks: What Galapagos finches and marine bacteria have in common

Ancient gut microbiomes shed light on human evolution

The microbiome of our ancestors might have been more important for human evolution than previously thought, according to a new study published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. An adaptive gut microbiome could have been critical for human dispersal, allowing our ancestors to survive in new geographic areas. “In this paper, we begin to consider what … Read more Ancient gut microbiomes shed light on human evolution

Huge bacteria-eating viruses close gap between life and non-life

Scientists have discovered hundreds of unusually large, bacteria-killing viruses with capabilities normally associated with living organisms, blurring the line between living microbes and viral machines. These phages — short for bacteriophages, so-called because they “eat” bacteria — are of a size and complexity considered typical of life, carry numerous genes normally found in bacteria and … Read more Huge bacteria-eating viruses close gap between life and non-life

Color-changing bandages sense and treat bacterial infections

According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health. Sensing and treating bacterial infections earlier could help improve patients’ recovery, as well curb the spread of antibiotic-resistant microbes. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Central Science have developed color-changing bandages that can sense drug-resistant and drug-sensitive bacteria in wounds and … Read more Color-changing bandages sense and treat bacterial infections

USC scientists show evolutionary principle in microbes of offshore Southern California

In the waves offshore of Southern California, germ warfare occurs in a struggle as old as life itself. It’s where USC marine biologists completed a comprehensive new study that shows the tactics bacteria and viruses employ to gain advantages against each other. What they found is that an unlikely standoff occurs, regardless of time, season … Read more USC scientists show evolutionary principle in microbes of offshore Southern California

Can a single-celled organism ‘change its mind’? New study says yes

More than 100 years ago, a zoologist by the name of Herbert Spencer Jennings described surprisingly complex and varied avoidance behaviors in a single-celled freshwater protist known as Stentor roeseli. When later experiments in a related organism failed to reproduce what he’d seen, his claims were discredited and pushed aside. But now, a report publishing in … Read more Can a single-celled organism ‘change its mind’? New study says yes

Coated seeds may enable agriculture on marginal lands

Providing seeds with a protective coating that also supplies essential nutrients to the germinating plant could make it possible to grow crops in otherwise unproductive soils, according to new research at MIT. A team of engineers has coated seeds with silk that has been treated with a kind of bacteria that naturally produce a nitrogen … Read more Coated seeds may enable agriculture on marginal lands

New disease hits corals

The emergence of a new coral disease in Micronesian reefs, termed grey-patch disease, is reported in the open access journal Microbiome. The disease alters the community of microbes found on the host coral and measuring these changes may be a useful tool for monitoring coral health across reefs. Coral reef communities are sensitive to the environmental … Read more New disease hits corals

Atacama Desert microbes may hold clues to life on Mars

Microbial life on Mars may potentially be transported across the planet on dust particles carried by wind, according to a study conducted in the Atacama Desert in North Chile, a well-known Mars analogue. The findings are published in Scientific Reports. Armando Azua-Bustos and colleagues investigated whether microbial life could move across the Atacama Desert using on … Read more Atacama Desert microbes may hold clues to life on Mars

Challenges in evidencing the earliest traces of life

Even though Earth is habitable (has surface liquid water and some crust) for 4.3 billion years, and the oldest putative traces of life suggested go back up to 4.1 billion years, the presence of a microbial biosphere is solidly demonstrated only since 3.4 billion years ago. The challenges are numerous: the preserved rock record starts … Read more Challenges in evidencing the earliest traces of life