THE last life on Earth will perish in 2.8 billion years, scorched by the dying sun as it swells to become a red giant. For about a billion years before that, the only living things will be single-celled organisms drifting in isolated pools of hot, salty water. A grim outlook, sure, but there’s a silver lining for today’s alien-hunters. The model that predicts these pockets of life on future Earth also hints that the habitability of planets around other stars is more varied than previously believed, offering new hope for finding life in unlikely places. Using what we know about Earth and the sun, researchers in the UK calculated a timeline for the phases of life on our planet as the sun expands to become a red giant. Previous studies modelled this scenario for Earth as a whole, but Jack O’Malley-James at the University of St Andrews, UK, and his colleagues wanted to consider the possibility that life might survive in a few extreme habitats. Sun-like stars of different sizes age at different rates, so the team also looked at how long simple and complex life might thrive around smaller and larger stars. “Habitability is not so much a set attribute of a planet, but more something that has a lifetime of its own,” says O’Malley-James. (via Last life on Earth: microbes will rule the far future – life – 01 November 2012 – New Scientist)
Posts Tagged ‘Bacteria’
Tags: Bacteria, extreme habitat, Life, microbes
Bacteria have a bad rap as agents of disease, but scientists are increasingly discovering their many benefits, such as maintaining a healthy gut. A new study now suggests that bacteria may also have helped kick off one of the key events in evolution: the leap from one-celled organisms to many-celled organisms, a development that eventually led to all animals, including humans. Published this month in the inaugural edition of the new online journal eLife, the study by University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard Medical School scientists involves choanoflagellates (aka “choanos”), the closest living relatives of animals. These microscopic, one-celled organisms sport a long tail or flagellum, tentacles for grabbing food and are members of the ocean’s plankton community. As our closest living relative, choanos offer critical insights into the biology of their last common ancestor with animals, a unicellular or colonial organism that lived and died over 650 million years ago. “Choanoflagellates evolved not long before the origin of animals and may help reveal how animals first evolved,” said senior author Nicole King, UC Berkeley associate professor of molecular and cell biology. (via Did bacteria spark evolution of multicellular life?)
Tags: Bacteria, Cancer, cooperation community, Science
Cancer is usually presented as a problem of cells becoming mindless replicators, proliferating without purpose or restraint. But that image underestimates the foe, according to a new paper. The authors argue that we’ll stand a better chance of combating cancer if we recognise that tumour cells are a lot smarter and function like a co-operating community. One of the authors, physicist Eshel Ben-Jacob of Tel Aviv University in Israel, has argued for some time that many single-celled organisms, whether they are tumour cells or gut bacteria, show a rudimentary form of social intelligence – an ability to act collectively in ways that adapt to the prevailing conditions, learn from experience and solve problems, all with the “aim” of improving their chances of survival. He even believes there is evidence that they can modify their own genomes in beneficial ways. (via BBC – Future – Health – Combating cancer’s conversations)
Bacteria gobbled 200,000 tons of Gulf spill
Over a period of five months following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, bacteria consumed at least 200,000 tons of oil and natural gas that spewed into the Gulf of Mexico.
For a study published this week in Environmental Science and Technology, researchers analyzed an extensive data set to determine not only how much oil and gas was eaten by bacteria, but also how the characteristics of the feast changed with time.
“A significant amount of the oil and gas that was released was retained within the ocean water more than one-half mile below the sea surface, says co-author John Kessler, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Rochester. “It appears that the hydrocarbon-eating bacteria did a good job of removing the majority of the material that was retained in these layers.”
Tags: Bacteria, carbon, Communication, Hardware, tech
Carbon, Bacteria, and Fish Balls: The Machines of the Future
Today, microprocessors are built with silicon. But tomorrow, they’ll be built with something else. This past week, with a paper published in the academic journal Nature Communications, researchers at Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany and the Swedish research institute Acreo AB revealed a new means of building chips using graphene — a substance long hailed as the future of micro-electronics — and their work takes the material that much closer to fulfilling its potential. Graphene is essentially sheets of carbon measuring a single atom thick, and it can carry electric charges much faster than materials used in today’s chips. Its discovery won the Nobel Prize for two University of Manchester scientists, but we’re still a long way from seeing it in commercial processors. Though graphene is wonderfully adept at conducting electricity, it doesn’t work quite as well as a semiconductor — which is essential to building transistors — and it doesn’t easily connect to other parts of a chip. (via Carbon, Bacteria, and Fish Balls: The Machines of the Future | Wired Enterprise | Wired.com)
Tags: Bacteria, Biotechnology, Genetics, Health, malaria, mosquito, Science
Genetically altered bacteria in mosquito guts can kill the parasite that causes deadly malaria without harming either the mosquitoes or the people they bite. Researchers modified the bacterium, Pantoea agglomerans, to secrete proteins that are toxic to the malaria parasite but not to its insect or human hosts. “In the past, we worked to genetically modify the mosquito to resist malaria, but genetic modification of bacteria is a simpler approach,” says Marcelo Jacobs-Lorena, senior author of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “The ultimate goal is to completely prevent the mosquito from spreading the malaria parasite to people.” (via Futurity.org – Engineered bacteria kill malaria parasite)