A2: Social bacterium, M. xanthus cooperate when food is scarce

Article Title/Link and Date: A social bacterium with versatile habits – January 22, 2019

Source: ScienceDaily

Myxocoxxus xanthus is a particularly cooperative predatory species that swarm together hunting other microorganisms in the soil.   When food is scarce thousands aggregate in fruiting bodies and form resting spores, allowing them to withstand hunger and drought.   The study referenced in the article found a surprising amount of genetic diversity and social behavior within the species cooperative, which had previously been theorized to be socially ubiquitous.   The researchers isolated communities of common ancestors and noticed differences social behavior arising from mutations within the ancestrally separated communities.   Diversity appears to be frequent in bacterial social groups, and it is speculated diverse cooperatives are evolutionarily favored over homogeneous ones.

This journal article and study touches on a lot of topics we have discussed in class.   A single species conglomerate utilizing the motile mechanisms of pili, and secretory lubrication.   They are predatory heterotrophs, and the article discusses cooperative interactions within the species similar to bio-films or localizing human microbiomes.

We know secretory mobility is metabolically demanding and so the predatory cooperative must be effective hunters to sustain their lifestyle.   Studying the yellow fruiting bodies of the dormant species was an effective measure of social variability, but I found the results more exciting.   Understanding the extent of diversity within a phylogenetically limited community I think speaks volumes about genetic variability, and the fluidity of useful genes.

Bio-films are cooperatives of bacteria that conjoin to increase their chances of survival.   I am curious how this study could better inform bio-film interactions?   It would be interesting if a variety of species that serve the same functional role in the community were similar in diversity to a single species with a unified role.   This could reinforce the importance of gene expression over taxonomic classification.   This is merely wild speculation at this point.