Bacterias are, well, bacterias. Nobody cares about them, what they do or anything in particular except if they got you into gonorrhea or something. However, there is one special type of bacteria that succeed in surpassing its day-to-day monotonous life.

The magnetotactic bacteria are a special kind of asexual bacteria that literally have built-in compasses. BacterD is a specimen first located at 2,000 meters deep in the Yellowstone Lake, Wyoming, United States. Nobody in the world is a genius, and the great discoveries in our era depend on luck more than they do on effort. And this time, it was no exception. An expedition conducted by the great biologist Dr. Flores tried to analyze the impact of the accumulation of heavy metals in the habitat where magnetotatic bacteria lived. The experiment consisted in taking samples to analyze the relative density of the water, and thus, according to the results, measure the environmental impact on the living species. First they started with a control zone of 200 meters squared, located near the intersection of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers, where they did an extensive cleaning. After the first week of cleaning, the crew discovered that there were certain specimens whose behavior changed in response to lowering the quantity of metals dissolved in the water.

BacterD was one of these specimens. It has been in earth long before humans do. They track the earth’s magnetic field to find the perfect spot in their watery homes. The bacteria takes heavy metals, in this case iron, from their surroundings and transport it to special compartments called magnetosomes. Inside each compartment there is a crystal, magnetite, the most strongly magnetic natural mineral we know of. BacterD can chain up the crystals, combining them into a strong magnet that can act as a compass, detecting the Earth’s magnetic field.

So, in normal conditions, the BacterD depends on iron to survive, but no those that Dr.Flores analyzed. The normal BacterD lives a rather monotonous life, just adjusting every day to follow the lines of the magnetic field. A nice water temperature and a sufficient quantity of iron would make any place a comfort zone for them to live in. On the other hand, the special BacterD had to adapt to a new magnetic field. Their biological compass searched for the nearest source of iron in order to function. Their “needle” rotated in every direction only to realize that the closest source of iron was another BacterD. The once asexual and monotonous bacteria merged to form a new BacterD whose magnets were so effective and strong that the bacteria get locked into alignment with earth’s magnetic field even when they are dead.



Author's Notes/Comments: 

Luis Felipe Garrido


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