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Research shows ocean bacteria glow to attract those that would eat them

In most situations in the wild, animals develop abilities to help them avoid being eaten. The chameleon, for example, can change its color to avoid being seen by predators. What’s less usual, are animals or organisms that develop abilities that do the opposite, i.e. develop traits that encourage predators to eat them. But that’s just what certain ocean bacteria appear to do. Margarita Zarubin, a marine science grad student in Israel, and her colleagues have shown, as they report in their paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that a certain type of bioluminescent bacteria glow to attract the attention of other organisms, so as to be eaten; and they do so as a means of assisted dispersal.

For years scientists have speculated that some ocean bacteria may glow to encourage others to eat them, but till now, no one had actually tested the theory. Zarubin and her colleagues thought it was time.

As a means of proof, the team put a bag of water with normal Photobacterium leiognathi bacteria in it into a tank of water that held shrimp and other microbes. At the other end of the tank they put in another bag of the same kind of bacteria that had been genetically altered to prevent their being able to glow. The team found that the shrimp and other organisms gathered around the glowing bag, but not around the dark one.

After that, they allowed a group of shrimp to swim around in water with the glowing bacteria in it, and found that after just a few hours, the shrimp’s bellies soon glowed with bacteria as well.
 
 

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