Bacteria, Like All Organisms, Form Social Networks


Interestingly, bacterial communities’ (called biofilms) and the communication networks that coordinate their actions as a group body (called quorum sensing) have a human social analog. The form and function we know of as human sociality have roots deep within the relationship economy of biology itself. The deeper we dig, the more it appears that what we experience as life is built on a nested architecture of self-similar communication networks.

Bacterial communication and group behavior

“…The past decade has seen the emergence of a new field in basic microbiology… Scientists had long held the view that bacterial cells behaved as self-sufficient individuals, unable to organize themselves into groups or communicate… The idea that bacteria could function as groups and that individuals within the group could respond to the group as a whole seemed almost ludicrous… [It is] now… generally accepted that bacteria produce, and respond as groups… This phenomenon has become known as quorum sensing.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC228476/

8 responses to “Bacteria, Like All Organisms, Form Social Networks

  1. Dear Joe Carter,

    We humans have often underestimated nonhumans.

    Parallel to the “the emergence of a new field in basic microbiology” is the new understanding and discovery that tree roots and fungi form the Wood-Wide Web.

    At almost one and a half hour long, this is a substantial video with the following notes:

    Join UC Berkeley PhD candidate Lorenzo Washington for Sonoma Land Trust’s Language of the Land presentation, A Peek Into the Wood-Wide Web: How Plants and Fungi Communicate Underground. We will explore the relationships between trees, other plants and fungi that hinge on cooperation instead of competition to improve their odds of survival. Located in soil everywhere, these extensive underground communication networks play crucial roles within ecosystems and can provide new strategies for agricultural cultivation.

    Thank you for perusing and commenting on my post entitled “We have Paleolithic Emotions; Medieval Institutions; and God-like Technology“. Since it is a very long post, you are very welcome to submit further comment(s) should you have additional ideas to add, given that your very own interests, insights, expertise and/or wisdom are very considerable.

    Yours sincerely,
    SoundEagle

    • Thank you. I do have a number of thoughts on Ed which I will try to find the time to articulate. I think people like himself, Denis Nobel, Lynn Margulis, and the much lesser known Luis P Villarreal are among the vanguard of greater understanding of the biological relationship economy. They are rarified minds in the field. Guys like Jerry Coyne strike me as sitting in the saddle of progress facing backwards – they preserve and protect what is established, sometimes at the expense of the necessary openness to explore the future.

      I get the sense that you and I are of a similar mind. when it comes to exploring a wide swath of nature. I look forward to exploring your blog further and perhaps getting to know you a bit more. There’s a lot to digest there.

      I am well aquainted with the “wood wide web.” I also know of a the sentience of slime molds and the relationship between ants and Acacia trees as examples of the biological ties that bind organisms in the biological community. The relationship between legumes and nitrogen fixing rhizobia bacteria is another. A magnificent example of what I call ectosymbiosis is between bacteria Vibrio fischeri and the Hawian bobtail squid. Bonnie Bassler’s TED talk; “How bacteria “talk”” does an excellent job of describing how the mutualistic relationship between the two works. It also reveals how integrated environmental profound awareness and response mechanisms are networked throughout the fabric of life in ways we have yet to scratch the surface,. Here’s bonnie’s talk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXWurAmtf78

      Another example of trees in symbiosis is a certain Acacia that works in concert to chemically cull the antelope herd during drought to preserve a remnant of the necessary relationship between the two.

      https://www.jstor.org/stable/24997007

      There are so many exciting things out there. I am glad to know someone with a similar passion to plumb the depths and share the vista.

      Cheers-

      Joe

      • Dear Joe,

        I intend to reply to your comment submitted to my post entitled “We have Paleolithic Emotions; Medieval Institutions; and God-like Technology” as soon as I can.

        Yes, I concur that we do have a great deal in common. Since you would like to know me better, my highly detailed and stylized “About” page could be very helpful in that regard.

        Thank you for including the YouTube video and the JSTOR article.

        For something substantial and stimulating, you are definitely welcome to peruse and comment on my co-authored post entitled “Do Plants and Insects Coevolve?“, which includes a detailed discussion on the relationship between ants and myrmecophytic Acacia trees in the section titled Ants and Plants.

        Perhaps what will interest you much more is my unrelenting analysis and expansive revelation of the challenging nature of being a researcher or an academic, in a section of the post that begins with the paragraph “There has also been a corresponding shift of the intellectual kind happening in the life of a featured author…”

        The said post is available at

        http://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2016/08/17/do-plants-and-insects-coevolve/

        Yours sincerely,
        SoundEagle

  2. Dear Joe,

    I have just submitted a long comment and it has disappeared, probably mistakenly identified as a spam, which you can unspammed and then approved. This is my second attempt at submitting this comment, which, unlike the first, omits the direct hyperlink to my post entitled “Do Plants and Insects Coevolve?” that might have triggered the misidentification of my comment as a spam.

    I intend to reply to your comment submitted to my post entitled “We have Paleolithic Emotions; Medieval Institutions; and God-like Technology” as soon as I can.

    Yes, I concur that we do have a great deal in common. Since you would like to know me better, my highly detailed and stylized “About” page could be very helpful in that regard.

    Thank you for including the YouTube video and the JSTOR article.

    For something substantial and stimulating, you are definitely welcome to peruse and comment on my co-authored post entitled “Do Plants and Insects Coevolve?“, which includes a detailed discussion on the relationship between ants and myrmecophytic Acacia trees in the section titled Ants and Plants.

    Perhaps what will interest you much more is my unrelenting analysis and expansive revelation of the challenging nature of being a researcher or an academic, in a section of the post that begins with the paragraph “There has also been a corresponding shift of the intellectual kind happening in the life of a featured author…”

    You can easily find my post entitled “Do Plants and Insects Coevolve?” at the Home page of my blog.

    Yours sincerely,
    SoundEagle

  3. This might seem random, but the idea of social networks and what is “alive” comes up a lot in discussions of AI and whether they are capable of achieving sentience (a big no, in my opinion). However, these AI, especially advanced digital chatbots such as Replika, create fairly realistic conversations. There is a subgroup that think that they have sentience, and the argument is what is consciousness is often their response to sentience does not mean what you think it means.

    • As I understand it whoever defines the argument that contains a subjective component as part of its constituents has already won. The Turing test says that if you can’t tell the difference between a mechanical and or electronic interlocutor (called a philosophical zombie) and an actual sentient being, this is the threshold for “passing” the sentient test. The subjective definition of terms in this case actually sets the boundaries and declares the win or the ambiguity depending on who is arguing. I agree with you, it doesn’t really answer the question of sentience as much as it sets a subjective category for “winning”, then declares it. It seems like a rhetorical sidestep of the real question however it does bring a valid point to the table.

      We experience life, at least in part, based on how we believe things are, not how they really are if objective reality is our only basis. We are objective and subjective beings. If we begin to look at the power of subjectivity we can see the building blocks of everything from tribes that surpassed that of current day chimpanzee troops to this global membrane we now exist in is built almost entirely on fictions. The story of money, nation states, laws, ideas like human rights and so on are all fictions that powerfully influence our sense of belonging and place as well as many other aspects of what we experience as “being”. We are social creatures, far more so than rational ones.

      I could be missing something(s)

      • Good points. So if I say it is sentient because of these traits, I have created the condition for winning (and won).

      • That’s my understanding. I have heard bracketed as part of a larger class of erroneous argument forms called the false premise fallacy. When an argument has false (or arbitrary) information built into the premise of the argument and then uses that premise (usually smuggled in) as part of the logic to infer a conclusion.

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