Weird Science in the News – 180622

Jellyfish glowing green © sgrunden

Jellyfish glowing green © sgrunden

This is a glowing bonus post for Weird Science in the News! Another post with news from this month should go up next week. I think we could all use reminders today of the weird and wonderful in our world.

Glowing Bacteria

A team of biologists recently made the bacteria responsible for cholera glow to watch its behavior. Science Alert explained,

What the team did – and the reason those bacteria glow with an eerie green light – is develop a new method of painting both the pili [an appendage] and the DNA with fluorescent dye. When they stuck the whole kit and kaboodle under a microscope, they were able to see the process with their own eyes for the first time.

Using the fluorescent dye to see otherwise undetectable movement, scientists recorded one Vibrio cholerae fishing for pieces of the deceased to consume.

When bacteria die, they split open and release their DNA, whereupon other bacteria can snare and incorporate it. If the dead bacterium had an antibiotic resistance, the bacterium that caught the dead fellow’s DNA also develops that resistance – and spreads it to its own offspring.

The description on Science Alert sounds like the premise to a horror story, but it depicts one way that life adapts. Take a look at the glowing bacteria.

Glowing Sea Creatures

One of the inspirations for this post was a National Geographic presentation, See Amazing Ocean Creatures That ‘Glow’.

“Biofluorescence in the marine environment is like this constantly unfolding mystery novel,” says David Gruber, a marine biologist and National Geographic Explorer at Harvard University.

Lesson Flash: Biofluroescence vs -luminescence

Biofluorescence is technically different than bioluminescence, which occurs when animals use a chemical reaction to produce their own light.

If bioluminescence is the equivalent of glow sticks that you crack open on the Fourth of July, biofluorescence is more akin to fluorescent paint glowing under a blacklight, Gruber says.

Scientists are continuing to make fascinating discoveries from explorations with glowing biology. However, this is not a new area of research. The video below is a TED Talk from 2011 by the bioluminescence expert Edith Widder.

Isn’t it interesting how life can twinkle, sparkle, and flash?

Video: More Images and Explanations