A double-edged refutation is a refutation that, like a double-edged sword, can strike both left and right. Rarely, but there are myths consisting of two mutually exclusive parts. In order to expose such a myth, it is necessary to strike at both parts.
But let’s leave poetic fiction alone and deal with our “double” myth.
One part of this myth is the attribution to microorganisms of intelligent behavior, the ability to make informed decisions and to act on them. But this ability occurs in animals and humans as a result of higher nervous activity, which provide the higher parts of the Central nervous system – the cerebral cortex and its nearest subcortical departments.
Why is the worm born to crawl, cannot fly? The answer is simple – because it has no wings and muscles that drive them. The same can be said about the higher nervous activity of microorganisms. They don’t have it because they don’t have a brain or a nervous system. And even there is no cell structure (organoid), responsible for thinking. In any case, until such is not open and is unlikely to be open, because the anatomy of microorganisms is studied very well, to the smallest detail. It is their physiology that constantly throws surprises to scientists, one after another.
No brain – no mind. Period! Thinking of a colony of bacteria have a right to exist only in fantastic fantasy works. This is a very “profitable”, that is promising in the sense of plot formation heroes, and authors-storytellers are unlikely to ever be able to part with them.
By the way – about the worms. The nervous system of roundworms or nematodes consists “only” of the peripharyngeal nerve ring and a few longitudinal nerves. The words “just something” are in quotes, because compared to bacteria it is very,very much. And that’s even remotely similar higher nervous activity we can observe in nematodes? And nothing! From time to time there are reports of how the next scientists (it is not clear to take these words in quotation marks, or not) found in nematodes the ability to primitive learning from their own experience, but it is still more a hypothesis than a serious statement.
Of mind in microorganisms no, but if they have some capacity for coordinated interaction? Pay attention to the words – “to the agreed”, not “to the meaningful”. Coordinated interaction can be realized on an instinctive level, according to the program laid down by nature.
This ability is. Not all microorganisms, but many. Or have all, but has not yet been studied at all… Ethology  microorganisms scientists have engaged about forty years ago and have already managed to find out something. “Something”, and not “almost all”, because forty years for science term small, Yes and object research very complex. A bacterium is neither a dog nor a monkey. In microethology, there is a lot of hypothetical, hypothetical, as well as a lot of controversial, but in General we can say with confidence that cellular microorganisms have the ability to contact and remote communication, which determines various forms of social behavior. It is wrong to think that single-celled organisms live on their own without interacting with each other.
Clarification – in this Chapter we are talking only about cellular microorganisms. Scientists are not yet engaged in the ethology of viruses. Or maybe they already are, but they keep their classes secret.
So, what gives scientists the opportunity to talk about the interaction and social behavior of microorganisms?
First, single-celled microorganisms have the ability to cohesion – adhesion of homogeneous cells with each other. The simplest example of cohesion is diplococci, double globular bacteria that can have a common capsule. A more complex example is the filamentous bacteria mentioned in the first Chapter.
Agree that for “gluing” and the formation of a common shell need some kind of interaction between individual organisms. Before we unite, we need to somehow agree, right?
A more complex type of interaction than cohesion is cooperation – the Union of organisms for the joint performance of a task. The film, which is formed by Pseudomonas aeruginosa sticks, is an example of cooperation. However, the line between cooperation and cohesion in many cases is rather conventional. For example, filamentous bacteria can be considered both an example of cohesion and an example of cooperation.
Well, a predatory bacterium teratomata with its trappers fixture in the mouth (again remember the first Chapter) – it is cooperation and only cooperation. Almost Teratoblastoma just one more step to a multicellular organism. At its core, a multicellular organism is nothing more than the result of the cooperation of many cells of different species.
It can be assumed that diplococci are formed “randomly” – randomly moving, microorganisms bump into each other and form pairs. Okay, then. But we cannot call any coordinated action of a group of organisms “accidental”. Consistency is always not accidental, it involves some coordination, and coordination, in turn, involves…
What does coordination involve?
Well, of course, the interaction!
You can interact with each other without having sense organs. The production of “signal” chemicals is the simplest way of interaction between microorganisms. This interaction can be contact, when between the cytoplasm of neighboring cells are formed communicating channels, and can be remote – distant from each other cells emit “signal” substances into the environment, figuratively speaking – send each other messages by “mail”.
“Signal” chemicals are a prototype of hormones, biologically active organic substances produced in the cells of the endocrine glands and delivered with blood to the destination – the target organ.
Some pseudo-scientists (they can not be called scientists) try to explain the interaction between bacteria as a result of the exchange of certain “telepathic waves”, “biological currents” and “energy impulses”… Let’s not invent a flying Bicycle, but look at things with a sober look. Intercellular interaction by means of electrical impulses exist in multicellular organisms. Nerve impulses, if someone does not know, are electrical in nature. What is possible for the cells of a multicellular organism is also possible for unicellular organisms.
Willingly cooperating with each other, microorganisms never “come” in connection with strangers – microorganisms of other species. If you take three different kinds of diplococci, such as meningococci, gonococci and pneumococci, mix them in a certain suitable for all environments and all sorts of different a over them – to expose, influence of electric shock and various chemicals, heating and cooling, read Pushkin and Lermontov, to play them on the violin and the saxophone, that couple will still be single-species. “A horse and a quivering DOE cannot be harnessed to one cart”  and in the same way it is impossible to pair pneumococcus with gonococcus. And also in the chain or in the “bunch”.
What follows from this?
Not only the presence of the mechanism of recognition of their own and others on the surface proteins of cell membranes, but also the ability to isolate themselves from others and unite with their own – social behavior in its purest form.
Unlike animals, including us, microorganisms are convinced Democrats. In their communities, there is absolutely no hierarchical element, there are no obvious leaders, all are equal to each other. And I want to say: “Yes, they just do not have enough mind to build a hierarchical ladder,” but maybe microorganisms just do not need it? However, among microbiologists there are those who believe that all life without exception is organized on a hierarchical basis. Like, if there is no hierarchy, there will be no coordination. And there will be no division of labor. These microbiologists are trying hard to find hierarchical ladders in single-celled groups, but so far their search has not been successful.
If you have a question – what kind of “division of labor” in unicellular microorganisms can be discussed, then remember the films that form Pseudomonas aeruginosa sticks to protect their colonies, and note that the words “division of labor” are quoted. In fact, the formation of protective films is not a division of labor, but functions. But all same after all – division! Protective film formation is not the only example of such separation. “Mouth” bacteria tomatometer is also a division of functions among microorganisms of the same colony. There is evidence (albeit requiring further research) that some bacteria when lack of food is able to self-destruct for the good of his comrades, becoming their source of nutrients.
Colonies of microorganisms, on the one hand, have similarities with a multicellular organism, and on the other – with the social organization of such multicellular organisms, such as ants. Why the ants, too? Yes, because the same type of cells of a multicellular organism perform the same functions, and the same ants can perform different functions, just like microorganisms. If in our body the liver cells are significantly different from the skin cells, the protective films do not form any special bacteria, but the same ones that these films protect.
Do you know the word “matrix”?
The matrix is not a matrix, but a substance that fills a certain space. Matrix is different. For example, the nuclear matrix forms the basis of the cell nucleus. The cell matrix fills the cell. And there is also an extracellular or intercellular matrix – a mixture of different substances, in which there are cells of unicellular and multicellular organisms.
What is the revolutionary, or rather the evolutionary meaning of the extracellular matrix? The fact that its formation was a decisive, so to speak, step towards the unification of the separated cells into a single whole. The cells began to form a common environment that United them into a single whole (colony), protected them and made it possible to communicate with each other – because it was in the extracellular matrix that “signal” substances of remote action were released.
And then you continue to count micro-organisms “just a single cell and nothing more”? In this case, you are very mistaken.
It is not necessary to give microorganisms a certain mind, but do not consider them a colony of isolated cells. The truth, as is often the case, is somewhere in the middle. The pendulum swung to the right, then to the left, but where it stops, and you need to look for the truth.
In General, we have dealt with this issue. Now let’s look at some interesting examples.
Not so long ago, some bacteria, such as opportunistic  rod-shaped bacteria Alkaligenes fecalis (from the name should be clear where it was first found), was found such a structure as extracellular, that is, extracellular, gas cylinders. These cylinders are filled with gases (such as oxygen) bubbles located in the extracellular space.
It is easy to guess why cells need such structures. In the water environment, extracellular gas cylinders play the role of inflatable boats, increasing the buoyancy of the cells grouped around them and facilitating their transportation. In addition, the cylinders store the necessary cells for the life of gases. Not for a specific cell store, but for a group of cells! Extracellular gas cylinders are public domain, or rather property. These cylinders can be structurally linked gamesome small Tau containing analogue of hemoglobin flavohaemoglobin.
Tell me, please, a type which is arranged in the extracellular matrix extracellularly gas cylinder surrounded by gamesome?
What’s it like?
Of course on the lungs (balloon), blood (extracellular matrix) and red blood cells (hemosomes). Channels between cells, uniting their internal environment into a single whole, are a prototype of the circulatory system. And the shells that cover the colonies of microorganisms are a prototype of the skin. Evolution, as already mentioned, goes from simple to complex, from single-celled colonies with “public property” to multicellular organisms with a set of organs and systems.
Here is another “conceptual” similarity of colonies of unicellular organisms with multicellular organisms – during its existence, many colonies consistently pass through the stages of slow but gradually increasing growth, rapid growth, slowing down growth until its complete cessation and the stage in which cell death can be combined with sporulation. What is it like not to change the period of embryonic development by youth, youth – maturity, and maturity – old age?
For all the similarities between the colonies of unicellular and multicellular organisms, there is one significant difference that warns against rectilinear parallelism. If the program of development of a multicellular organism is incorporated in its genes, that is predetermined from birth (as well as the program of development of a unicellular organism), the growth and development of the colony is determined primarily by the influence of environmental factors. Here is a rough example – if a colony of microorganisms receives sufficient food, it will be overwhelmingly represented by vegetative (that is, ordinary) cells. As the diet in the colony deteriorates, the process of sporulation will gain momentum, an increasing number of vegetative cells will form spores in order to wait out the hungry times. If nutrition becomes sufficient again, the spores will begin to turn into vegetative cells.
Simply put, a colony of any single-celled organisms is still a colony, not a nascent multicellular organism. Association of organisms, but not a single whole – catch the difference?
Will science ever reach the creation of such a section as the psychology of microorganisms? Hardly, because for any section of psychology requires the presence of the psyche, which microorganisms do not and can not be. Just as there can be no two opinions on this issue. But something like the sociology of microorganisms may well appear among the narrow scientific disciplines.
In two adjacent colonies of microorganisms, extracellular matrices can touch, forming “bridges”. It would seem that such “bridges” should contribute to the establishment of good-neighborly relations between microorganisms of different species, the exchange of nutrients and valuable information. As the bonds grow stronger, other colonies will join the community of the two species, forming a single-celled (and multicellular) “Federation” that may eventually turn into a multicellular organism. What’s wrong? Single-celled microorganisms of different species will give rise to different organs and systems…
Stop! Come together, remove the rose-colored glasses and come down from the clouds to the ground. “Bridge” between the colonies of various microorganisms if used, then only for “military” purposes. According to it, some microorganisms can send other substances that inhibit their development. Imagine, these tiny bacteria are able to “identify” their neighbors and produce poisons of “personal action”.
Nothing personal, just natural selection. It never hurts to expand its ecological niche or take someone else’s. The world of microorganisms is extremely harsh, if not to say cruel, and humanism, like other high feelings, has no place in it. Alas, that is a fact.
By the way, the structure of the colony of bacteria depends on such an important property as virulence – the degree of ability to infect the body. Many bacteria are able to produce virulence factors (necessary for virulence of the substance) only in large and highly ordered colonies. So it begs the comparison with locusts, which, in solitary and gregarious phases of existence differs not only behavior but also appearance. Differences between single individuals, called “fillies” and monstrous herd locusts are so great that once they were attributed to different types of insects.
The process of infection with an infectious agent has another side – with a large number of bacteria, the immune system of the body does not have time to neutralize all the virulence factors that they emit, “passes” and as a result, the disease develops. That’s why for the infection of the body need not a few microbes and a fairly large number of them.
In addition, virulence may increase under the influence of substances-“stimulants” contained in the extracellular matrix. The more cells in the colony, the higher the concentration of “stimulants” in the matrix.
The principle of “together we are power” will apply not only to people, but to all other living organisms, including microbes.
And what germs are worse than the people?