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Even Bacteria Use Social Networks

The next time your Facebook stream is filled with cat videos, think about Myxococcus xanthus. The single-cell soil bacterium also uses a social network. But forget silly distractions. M. xanthus relies on its connections to avoid getting eaten and to score its next meal.

That’s the latest insight from a team of Berkeley Lab scientists. Using several imaging techniques, they saw for the first time that M. xanthus cells are connected by a network of chain-like membranes.

The scientists believe M. xanthus uses its network to quietly transfer proteins and other molecules from one to another. This could enable the bacteria to coordinate social activities—such as evading bacterial enemies and snaring prey—without revealing its location.

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