Bacteria have a sense of smell, which they may use to sniff out competitors and food sources, according to new research published this week in Biotechnology Journal.
Colonies of Bacillus licheniformis, which detect
their neighbors by "smelling" ammonia

Image: Reindert Nijland
A study led by linkurl:Reindert Nijland,; now at the University Medical Center in Utretcht, The Netherlands, found that Bacillus bacteria can sense each other's presence through the air by sensing ammonia production."This is basic science that's really, really interesting because if bacteria can really smell, that's something unexpected," Nijland told The Scientist.Although researchers had known that bacteria could sense the presence of ammonia, "this is the first time it was shown that a gas is sensed for the purpose of regulating social behavior," said Jörg Stülke, a linkurl:microbiologist; at the University of Göttingen in Germany, who did not participate in the study. Nijland, then a post-doctoral fellow in...
Bacillus subtilisB. licheniformis.BacillusBacillusBacillusBacillusB. licheniformisB. licheniformisB. licheniformisBacillusNijland, R. & Burgess, J. G. "Bacterial olfaction," Biotechnology Journal, doi:10.1002/biot.201000174, 2010.

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