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.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.