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12 December 2013 1:00 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
The iconic 125-year-old Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton near San Jose, California, is facing the threat of closure...
Recent results from the Curiosity Mars rover have helped scientists formulate a plan for the next phase of its mission...
A new, remarkably powerful drug that cripples the hepatitis C virus (HCV) came to market last week, but it sells for $...
In pretoothbrush populations, gumlines would often be marred by a thick, visible crust of calcium phosphate, food...
Evolutionary biologists have long studied how the Mexican tetra, a drab fish that lives in rivers and creeks but has...
Victorian astronomers spent countless hours laboriously charting the positions of stars in the sky. Such sky mapping,...
In an ambitious project to study 1000 years of sickness and health, researchers are excavating the graveyard of the now...
Stefan Behnisch has won awards for designing science labs and other buildings that are smart, sustainable, and...
- 12 December 2013 1:00 pm , Vol. 342 , #6164
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Video: Walking Tall, Bacterial Style
7 October 2010 3:20 pm
Time to revise the high school biology textbooks. Turns out the standard image of a sausage-shaped bacterium crawling along lengthwise is obsolete. New research shows that many of these unicellular organisms can stand upright and walk. The secret is type IV pili—grappling hooklike appendages located on the front and back ends of some species. Previously, researchers thought that pili helped the bacteria pull themselves along a flat surface. But a team of microbiologists took video footage of the bacteria involved in cystic fibrosis infections and found two types of motion. "Crawlers" stayed horizontal, moving more slowly but generally in straighter lines, a more energy-efficient way of getting around. "Walkers," like the one shown above, can use their leg-like pili to detach themselves after cell division to stand up and walk away. The walkers moved faster than the crawlers but meandered—a good strategy for exploring new territory. The researchers report online today in Science that they think this exploratory behavior would be especially useful when the bacteria form biofilms—surface-coating conglomerates responsible for many of the most stubborn and fatal diseases.
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