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Bacteria seen swimming the electron shuffle

New videos have caught bacteria in the act of a completely new behavior. A study appearing online December 7 in PNAS finds that Shewanella cells briefly touch an electron-accepting surface, lift off and swim furiously, and then return to the metal surface.

The researchers call this flighty new behavior electrokinesis, and think it may be a way for bacteria to dump built-up electrons before taking off in search of food, much like a whale surfacing for a breath before diving. Understanding this frenetic movement may help scientists design better microbial fuel cells, which harness these electron-shuttling bacteria to produce energy.

“As far as we know, it is a new behavior,” says study coauthor and microbiologist Ken Nealson of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “It’s a new way of thinking about what bacteria do. The really great thing is that it’s probably opened up 10 times more questions and created 10 times more hypotheses than we had when we started.”
 
 

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  1. If anyone has seen the videos, please post them. I'd love to see this!

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