V. Life's Corporeal Evolution Encodes and Organizes Itself: An EarthWinian Genesis Synthesis
2. Microbial Colonies
George, Ashish, et al. Functional Universality in Microbial Communities Arises from Thermodynamic Constraints. iv:2203.06128. University of Illinois biologists study slow-growing colonies and find that such energy gradients provide a common structuring occasion.
Our results make predictions for the metabolic structure and resource environment created by the communities in low-energy environments, based on the thermodynamics of microbial metabolism. This requires knowledge of the free energy differences and metabolomic data of the resource environment. Recent advances in computational methods make the outlook promising. (9)
Gewin, Virginia. The Sequencing Machine. Nature. 487/156, 2012. A news report on the Earth Microbiome Project, a collaboration to sequence and characterize the microbial communities of some 200,000 environments such as soil and water samples collected around the globe. Its subtitle notes this work as part of an endeavor to “sequence the Earth.” Might we humankind go on to imagine a “Cosmic Macrobiome Project” of digital text and analogue image unto the discovery of a human genesis uniVerse?
Gitai, Zemer. The New Bacterial Cell Biology: Moving Parts and Subcellular Architecture. Cell. 120/5, 2005. Microbes are in fact quite intricate and exhibit a dynamic homologous arrangement, alone and in colonies, that later manifests as nucleated cells.
Recent advances have demonstrated that bacterial cells have an exquisitely organized and dynamic subcellular architecture. Like there eukaryotic counterparts, bacteria employ a full complement of cytoskeletal proteins, localize proteins and DNA to specific subcellular addresses at specific times, and use intercellular signaling to coordinate multicellular events. (577)
Goldford, Joshua, et al. Emergent Simplicity in Microbial Community Assembly. Science. 361/469, 2018. A nine member team from Boston, Harvard, Stanford, and Yale University studied thousands of bacterial groupings under a wide variety of environmental conditions to see whether common topologies and processes appear across this large sample. Indeed it is found that a viable recurrent presence can indeed be identified. By extension, an independent, universally manifest source which communal life draws upon and exemplifies is equally implied and illuminated.
A major unresolved question in microbiome research is whether the complex taxonomic architectures observed in surveys of natural communities can be explained and predicted by fundamental, quantitative principles. Bridging theory and experiment is hampered by the multiplicity of ecological processes that simultaneously affect community assembly in natural ecosystems. We addressed this challenge by monitoring the assembly of hundreds of soil- and plant-derived microbiomes in well-controlled minimal synthetic media. Both the community-level function and the coarse-grained taxonomy of the resulting communities are highly predictable and governed by nutrient availability, despite substantial species variability. By generalizing classical ecological models to include widespread nonspecific cross-feeding, we show that these features are all emergent properties of the assembly of large microbial communities, explaining their ubiquity in natural microbiomes. (Abstract)
Green, Jessica and Brendan Bohannan. Spatial Scaling of Microbial Biodiversity. Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 21/9, 2006. Although the distributions and variety of sizable organisms scale in the same way everywhere, it has long been thought that the bacterial realm, due to its vast numbers (~109 microbes in a gram of soil), spreads out evenly. This report argues for a revision whereby the larger patterns of similarly hold for and continue into this minute milieu, revealing a universality of spatial geometries.
We focus on three spatial patterns: the distance-decay relationship (how community composition changes with geographic distance), the taxa-area relationship, and the local:global taxa richness ratio. Recent empirical analyses of these patterns for microorganisms suggest that there are biodiversity scaling rules common to all forms of life. (501)
Gross, Michael. Shining New Light on Quorum Sensing. Current Biology. 27/24, 2017. In his biweekly column, the Oxford science writer here reports on further visual evidence that bacterial communities effectively avail a beneficial common consensus.
Single-cell organisms often are anything but single cells. They co-operate and communicate in multiple and complex ways that science is only beginning to understand. By communicating with each other and acting collectively, they can deliver many complex functions ranging from the bright light in luminescent fish through to the digestion of food in our intestines and also including pathogen invasions.
Hahn, Aria, et al. The Information Science of Microbial Ecology. Current Opinion in Microbiology. 31/209, 2016. University of British Columbia and MIT ecoinformatic theorists seek better understandings of bacterial realms by way of previously underappreciated communicative phenomena. By this vista, common parallels far afield are traced between research publications, genomic trajectories, and life’s nested emergence from cells to populations, communities, and the Earth system (210). Again an informative perspective is seen to vitalize a field, along with illuming nature’s universal repetitions in kind. The future thus lies in the “clouds,” whence “interconnected networks of multi-omic sequences” can have an affinity to “Internet connections on the Worldwide Web” (213).
A revolution is unfolding in microbial ecology where petabytes of ‘multi-omics’ data are produced using next generation sequencing and mass spectrometry platforms. This cornucopia of biological information has enormous potential to reveal the hidden metabolic powers of microbial communities in natural and engineered ecosystems. However, to realize this potential, the development of new technologies and interpretative frameworks grounded in ecological design principles are needed to overcome computational and analytical bottlenecks. Here we explore the relationship between microbial ecology and information science in the era of cloud-based computation. We consider microorganisms as individual information processing units implementing a distributed metabolic algorithm and describe developments in ecoinformatics and ubiquitous computing with the potential to eliminate bottlenecks and empower knowledge creation and translation. (Abstract)
Hussa, Elizabeth and Heidi Goodrich-Blair. It Takes a Village: Ecological and Fitness Impacts of Multipartite Mutualism. Annual Review of Microbiology. 67/161, 2013. University of Wisconsin bacteriologists further appreciate life’s natural propensity from prokaryotes to primates to form viable groupings sustained by symbiotic reciprocities of component members and a bounded organic whole. Typical benefits are niche adaptation and survival defense. Aka “multipartite interdependence,” the abstract term is another version of “competitive coherence” by Vic Norris, et al, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s “creative union,” traditional African “ubuntu,” many others. While critics complain that such mutually based societies may tend to communal control, in natural practice, as Teilhard stressed, more social support actually enhances personal liberty.
Microbial symbioses, in which microbes have either positive (mutualistic) or negative (parasitic) impacts on host fitness, are integral to all aspects of biology, from ecology to human health. In many well-studied cases, microbial symbiosis is characterized by a specialized association between a host and a specific microbe that provides it with one or more beneficial functions, such as novel metabolic pathways or defense against pathogens. Even in relatively simple associations, symbiont-derived benefits can be context dependent and influenced by other host-associated or environmental microbes. Furthermore, naturally occurring symbioses are typically complex, in which multiple symbionts exhibit coordinated, competing, or independent influences on host physiology, or in which individual symbionts affect multiple interacting hosts. Here we describe research on the mechanisms and consequences of multipartite symbioses, including consortia in which multiple organisms interact with the host and one another, and on conditional mutualists whose impact on the host depends on additional interacting organisms. (Abstract)
Jabr, Ferris. How Brainless Slime Molds Redefine Intelligence. www.nature.com/news/how-brainless-slime-molds-redefine-intelligence-1.11811. Online November 2012, a news report on a segment from the NOVA and Scientific American TV program “What are Animals Thinking?” These single-cell amoeba are found to be capable in communal unison to remember, make decisions, plan for change. As a result, they seem to possess innate propensities for cognitive abilities.
Something scientists have come to understand is that slime molds are much smarter than they look. One species in particular, the SpongeBob SquarePants – yellow Physarum polycephalum, can solve mazes, mimic the layout of man-made transportation networks and choose the healthiest food from a diverse menu—and all this without a brain or nervous system. "Slime molds are redefining what you need to have to qualify as intelligent” says Chris Reid of the University of Sydney.
Joint, Ian, et al. Bacterial Conversations: Talking, Listening and Eavesdropping. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 362/1115, 2007. An introduction to an issue on the prevalence of microbial communication, known as quorum sensing, by which bacteria persist not as separate isolates but in viable colonial biofilms and populations.
Kolter, Roberto and Peter Greenberg. The Superficial Life of Microbes. Nature. 441/300, 2006. A news report on the realization that the bacterial realm, especially surface biofilms, ought to be rightly understood as communal in kind.
Koonin, Eugene and Yuri Wolf. Genomics of Bacteria and Archaea: the Emerging Dynamic View of the Prokaryotic World. Nucleic Acids Research. 36/21, 2008. National Center for Biotechnology Information, NIH, scientists explore the major rethinking of this microbial realm now in process. But how might we imagine in a Natural Genesis, that such a typical paper, in its linguistic exercise, is itself genetic in kind as the cosmic and molecular code lately emerges to reflective human recognition and continuance?
However, comparative genomics also shows that horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is a dominant force of prokaryotic evolution,….A crucial component of the prokaryotic world is the mobilome, the enormous collection of viruses, plasmids and other selfish elements, which are in constant exchange with more stable chromosomes and serve as HGT vehicles. Thus, the prokaryotic genome space is a tightly connected, although compartmentalized, network, a novel notion that undermines the ‘Tree of Life’ model of evolution and requires a new conceptual framework and tools for the study of prokaryotic evolution. (6688)