Algorithm inspired by slime mold foraging

Nature has provided a great deal of inspiration for computer scientists developing search algorithms and ways to solve complicated problems with as little computing power as possible. Ant colonies, beehives, bat hunting, ...

Tuberculosis bacteria survive in amoebae found in soil

Scientists from the University of Surrey and University of Geneva have discovered that the bacterium which causes bovine TB can survive and grow in small, single-celled organisms found in soil and dung. It is believed that ...

How cells learn to 'count'

One of the wonders of cell biology is its symmetry. Mammalian cells have one nucleus and one cell membrane, and most humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes. Trillions of mammalian cells achieve this uniformity—but some consistently ...

Animal embryos evolved before animals

Animals evolved from single-celled ancestors, before diversifying into 30 or 40 distinct anatomical designs. When and how animal ancestors made the transition from single-celled microbes to complex multicellular organisms ...

Scientists unravel mysteries of cells' whiplike extensions

Cilia, or flagella—whiplike appendages on cells—perform diverse tasks required to keep the body healthy. When cilia malfunction, the consequences can be devastating, causing a range of problems, from blindness, to lung ...

Liquid crystal droplets as versatile microswimmers

Nature's most common swimmers are single-celled organisms such as microalgae that swim toward light sources, and sperm cells that swim toward an ovum. For a physicist, cells are simply biochemical machines, which must obey ...

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Microorganism

A microorganism (from the Greek: μικρός, mikrós, "small" and ὀργανισμός, organismós, "organism"; also spelled micro organism or micro-organism) or microbe is an organism that is microscopic (usually too small to be seen by the naked human eye). The study of microorganisms is called microbiology, a subject that began with Anton van Leeuwenhoek's discovery of microorganisms in 1675, using a microscope of his own design.

Microorganisms are very diverse; they include bacteria, fungi, archaea, and protists; microscopic plants (called green algae); and animals such as plankton, the planarian and the amoeba. Some microbiologists also include viruses, but others consider these as non-living. Most microorganisms are unicellular (single-celled), but this is not universal, since some multicellular organisms are microscopic, while some unicellular protists and bacteria, like Thiomargarita namibiensis, are macroscopic and visible to the naked eye.

Microorganisms live in all parts of the biosphere where there is liquid water, including soil, hot springs, on the ocean floor, high in the atmosphere and deep inside rocks within the Earth's crust. Microorganisms are critical to nutrient recycling in ecosystems as they act as decomposers. As some microorganisms can fix nitrogen, they are a vital part of the nitrogen cycle, and recent studies indicate that airborne microbes may play a role in precipitation and weather.

Microbes are also exploited by people in biotechnology, both in traditional food and beverage preparation, and in modern technologies based on genetic engineering. However, pathogenic microbes are harmful, since they invade and grow within other organisms, causing diseases that kill millions of people, other animals, and plants.

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