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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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ScienceShot: Amoeba 'Farmer' Uses Organic Pesticide
29 July 2013 6:30 pm
The world’s smallest farmer also uses pesticides. That’s the conclusion of a new study on Dictyostelium discoideum, or “Dicty,” an amoeba with an unusual life cycle. Dicty spends most of its life as a single cell, but when food resources get tight, the cells clump together and transform into a sluglike creature half a centimeter long that heads for greener pastures; there it morphs into a so-called fruiting body with a long stalk and a spore-filled head (pictured). It also takes bacteria with it, which it harvests like crops after they burst out with the spores. Now, reporting online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers have found that Dicty carries a second set of bacteria, which are not food but produce pyrrolnitrin, a chemical that kills other bacteria and fungi. Surprisingly, pyrrolnitrin doesn’t destroy Dicty’s “crops,” but it does keep competing bacteria away, functioning a bit like an organic pesticide. The successful harvest allows Dicty to live as single cells until the food runs out once again.