Microbial intelligence

Microbial intelligence (popularly known as bacterial intelligence) is the intelligence shown by microorganisms. The concept encompasses complex adaptive behaviour shown by single cells, and altruistic and/or cooperative behavior in populations of like or unlike cells mediated by chemical signalling that induces physiological or behavioral changes in cells and influences colony structures.

Complex cells, like protozoa or algae, show remarkable abilities to organise themselves in changing circumstances.[1] Shell-building by amoebae reveals complex discrimination and manipulative skills that are ordinarily thought to occur only in multicellular organisms.

Even bacteria, which show primitive behavior as isolated cells, can display more sophisticated behavior as a population. These behaviors occur in single species populations, or mixed species populations. Examples are colonies of myxobacteria, quorum sensing, and biofilms.

It has been suggested that a bacterial colony loosely mimics a biological neural network. The bacteria can take inputs in form of chemical signals, process them and then produce output chemicals to signal other bacteria in the colony.

The mechanisms that enable single celled organisms to coordinate in populations presumably carried over in those lines that evolved multicellularity, and were co-opted as mechanisms to coordinate multicellular organisms.

Bacteria communication and self-organization in the context of network theory has been investigated by Eshel Ben-Jacob research group at Tel Aviv University which developed a fractal model of bacterial colony and identified linguistic and social patterns in colony lifecycle[2] (also see Ben-Jacob's bacteria).

Examples of microbial intelligence

Bacterial colony optimization

The algorithm is based on a lifecycle model that simulates some typical behaviors of E. coli bacteria during their whole lifecycle, including chemotaxis, communication, elimination, reproduction, and migration.[3]

See also


  1. Ford, Brian J. (2004). "Are Cells Ingenious?" (PDF). Microscope. 52 (3/4): 135–144.
  2. Cohen, Inon; et al. (1999). "Continuous and discrete models of cooperation in complex bacterial colonies" (PDF). Fractals. 7.03 (1999):: 235–247.
  3. Niu, Ben (2012). "Bacterial colony optimization". Discrete Dynamics in Nature and Society. 2012 (Article ID 698057).

Further reading

External links

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