Poisons are unleashed when colonies of bacteria get too close, creating a toxic no-man's land in between.
Research by Eshel Ben-Jacob of the University of California, San Diego's, Center for Theoretical Biological Physics, Ben-Jacob of Tel Aviv University, Avraham Be'er of the University of Texas, Austin, and colleagues at these institutions, found that rival colonies of the bacteria Paenibacillus dendritiformis can produce a lethal chemical that keeps competitors at bay. By halting the growth of nearby colonies and even killing some of the cells, groups of bacteria preserve scarce resources for themselves, even when the encroaching colony is closely related. To learn more about this research, see the UC-San Diego news release, "Colonies of Bacteria Fight for Resources with Lethal Protein." (http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/newsrel/science/03-23LethalProtein.asp)
Credit: Eshel Ben-Jacob