Bacteriastastic (Director's Cut)

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, Dr. Flores discovered that there were certain specimens that started to die as a consequence of the water treatment. He decided not to tell his team about this disastrous measures, as he realized, the water will wash out all the evidence. But just in case, he took samples of the water to see if smaller organisms had the same faith as the other species.

250 meters apart from the research zone lived a community of Yellowstone’s natives. It was a modest community of 130 inhabitants that depend on the river to survive. After the second week, the tribe noted that the fish started dying and began wondering what may been causing this situation. They tracked down the remains of dead species till they found Dr. Flores working zone. After the first hour of dialogue, both parties know that a negotiation would be futile. 50 Yellowstone natives made a barricade around the installation and threatened the team with sabotaging the machines. Most scientists did not understand the situation at first, but when they were showed the stack of dead animals, they turned their back at Flores.  “Not all specimens are dead”, was Dr. Flores last battle cry before he abandoned the working zone.

And he was right. BacterD was one of these specimens that survived. It has been in earth long before humans do. 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.

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