The Binary Bacteria
The binary bacteria, Bacillus binarius, is a recent discovery by Prof. Jack Hammer of the Institute for Tiny, Tiny Things (ITTT), North Dakota. At first glance, these monocellular lifeforms seem rather unremarkable. In addition, their reproductive rate is quite a bit lower than that of most known bacteria, which makes them appear like a rather tedious subject for study. However, it was exactly this trait that intrigued Prof. Hammer. “In the wild, low reproductive rate means low competivity for space and ressources, and the theory of natural selection tells us that this should lead to extinction over time. Yet we could find evidence of binary bacterias in a vaste array of substrates. That made me curious.”
Indeed, further research showed that, no matter what kind of nutrients where present (or absent) in its environment, the binary bacteria would grow at an almost identical rate. This is very unusual for bacteria, and by the time of this discovery, Prof. Hammer was positive that there was something special about his latest find. The research that followed would prove him right.
Binary bacteria, his team found, could be in one of two states: reproducing or producing. The producing bacteria would absorb as much matter from their environment as possible, and then transform it into adequate substrate for the reproducing ones. The latter would use the ressources to produce offspring. This simplistic division of labour might seem mundane to most people, but it was the first time such a thing had been observed in bacteria. “Archeabacteria are known to show this behavior on occasion, just as single celled algea do, but so far, it was believed that bacteria never exhibited those traits, and that this was why multicellular lifeforms did not evolve from them. So this recent discovery puts into question everything we know about the evolution of multicellular life on our planet.”
In addition to procuring easily absorbable nutrients, it seems the producer bacteria also emit nocif substances into their environment, keeping competitors at bay. As the colony expands, these are again absorbed by producer bacteria and given back to reproducers as substrate, which could explain how they were able to survive and thrive despite their low reproductive rate.
There is still much that we have to learn about these peculiar organisms, and Prof. Hammer is up for the job. “When I started to see then first signs of their strange behavior, I knew that I would spend the rest of my life with this bacteria. It was love at first sight.”