Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Love Bugs
30 September 2017

Love Bugs

It’s hard to picture tiny organisms getting in the mood for mating. Choanoflagellates are single-celled sea creatures, and a variety called Salpingoeca rosetta (pictured with their bodies stained gold), reproduce sexually. But sometimes even having an impressive collar (stained blue) isn’t enough to get it on – they need a little help from an unusual aphrodisiac: Vibrio fischeri bacteria. Researchers think that S. rosetta gobble up the bacteria to learn more about their natural environment, which helps them choose just the right time to reproduce. Choanoflagellates are the closest living relatives of all animals, including humans. But the message is not to sprinkle Vibrio fischeri on your cornflakes, rather what it means for our bodies. We have trillions of bacteria living inside us – our gut microbiome may use similar sexy signals that no one has detected yet. Investigating S. rosetta may shed light on these. When they’re ready, of course.

Written by John Ankers

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