Hawaiian Bobtail squid
Symbiotic Organs: Extreme Intimacy with the Microbial World
All multicellular creatures interact with bacteria, but some have taken the relationship to another level with highly specialized structures that house, feed, and exploit the tiny organisms.
Symbiotic Organs: Extreme Intimacy with the Microbial World
Symbiotic Organs: Extreme Intimacy with the Microbial World

All multicellular creatures interact with bacteria, but some have taken the relationship to another level with highly specialized structures that house, feed, and exploit the tiny organisms.

All multicellular creatures interact with bacteria, but some have taken the relationship to another level with highly specialized structures that house, feed, and exploit the tiny organisms.

symbiosis
Illustration of a Hawaiian Bobtail squid
Infographic: Symbiotic Organs Bring Hosts and Microbes Closer
Catherine Offord | Oct 3, 2022
Specialized structures in plants and animals help attract and mediate communication with bacterial symbionts.
Tortoise leaf beetle on a green leaf
The Double Life of a Fungus: Defends Beetle, Attacks Plant
Andy Carstens | Aug 19, 2022
Tortoise leaf beetles enjoy the protection the fungus provides from insect predators such as ants, then carry the microbe to a mutual plant host, which their fungal symbiont infects.
Newly hatched stinkbugs climbing over a pile of eggs.
Best Bugs: How E. coli Evolves into a Stinkbug Symbiont
Hannah Thomasy | Aug 15, 2022
Experimental evolution study sheds new light on the origin of animal-microbe symbioses and what it takes for bacteria to support their insect hosts.
Mosquito with red abdomen and white stripes on human skin
Mosquitoes Add Bacteria to Water to Help Larvae Grow: Preprint
Natalia Mesa | Apr 12, 2022
Pregnant mosquito females deploy the microbe Elizabethkingia to speed larval growth; the larvae, in turn, help the bacteria outcompete other strains.
Natural sunbeams underwater through water surface in the Mediterranean sea on a seabed with neptune grass, Catalonia, Roses, Costa Brava, Spain
Marine Plant Partners with Microbes Like Terrestrial Plants Do
Rachael Moeller Gorman | Mar 14, 2022
A seagrass relies on symbiotic bacteria inside its roots to fix nitrogen. This is the first time scientists have demonstrated that this relationship occurs in a marine plant.
Infographic showing how a new bacteria species called <em>Candidatus Celerinatantimonas neptuna</em> lives in seagrass and how it provides the plant with nitrogen
Infographic: Nitrogen-Fixing Bacteria Live Inside Seagrass Roots
Rachael Moeller Gorman | Mar 14, 2022
Researchers can now explain how some marine plants obtain their nitrogen.
Illustration showing coral health outcomes in response to bleaching events
Infographic: How Corals Remember the Past, Prepare for the Future
Amanda Heidt | Feb 14, 2022
Scientists have documented examples of corals “remembering” prior exposure to heat stress in the field, and are now simulating these phenomena in the lab to better understand their cellular and molecular underpinnings.
Conceptual illustration of coral
Environmental Memory: How Corals Are Adjusting to Warmer Waters
Amanda Heidt | Feb 14, 2022
Corals that previously experienced heat stress respond better the next time around. Researchers are trying to figure out how, and hope to one day take advantage of the phenomenon to improve coral restoration efforts. 
Collage of images including sperm, bacteria, coral, and an illustration of a researcher
Our Favorite Cell and Molecular Biology Stories of 2021
Jef Akst | Dec 2, 2021
Beyond The Scientist’s coverage of COVID-19’s molecular underpinnings were many other stories highlighting the advances made in scientists’ understanding of the biology of cells.
illustration of colorful microbes inside a person's stomach and intestines
How Commensal Gut Bacteria Keep Pathogens in Check
Alejandra Manjarrez | Oct 14, 2021
Recent studies describe how resident microbiota appear to outcompete unwelcome visitors, either with superior weaponry or by guzzling up local resources.  
A brown tick is shown from above as it climbs a green blade of grass
Bacterial Symbionts Tell Ticks When to Eat
Abby Olena | Oct 1, 2021
The endosymbiont Coxiella affects tick serotonin production and subsequent blood-feeding behavior, a study finds.
WITH VIDEO
A micrograph with a grey background shows both purple bacteria and green algae within a ciliated microorganism
A Protist Hosts Both Green Algae and Purple Bacteria Symbionts
Abby Olena | Jun 11, 2021
Having two different endosymbionts may allow the ciliate Pseudoblepharisma tenue to live in both oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor zones of the muddy bogs of southern Germany.
Certain Color Varieties of a Coral Are More Protected from Bleaching
Lisa Winter | Feb 25, 2021
In yellow-green and purple versions of the reef-building Acropora tenuis, the genes that code for particular fluorescent and other colorful proteins become more active in the summer, protecting symbiotic algae from thermal stress and resisting bleaching.
Forest Fungi Ride Out Wildfires by Hiding Inside Plants
Annie Greene | Apr 1, 2020
Researchers uncover the “body-snatching” tactics of fungi that flourish immediately after wildfires.
Researchers Discover the Largest Virus in the Oceans Yet
Kerry Grens | Mar 1, 2020
The ChoanoVirus genome codes for rhodopsin, perhaps giving its choanoflagellate host extra energy-harvesting capabilities.
Ants Produce Antibiotics that May Protect Plants
Emily Makowski | Mar 1, 2020
The antimicrobial compounds ants excrete to defend themselves from pathogens may protect plants as well.
ants symbiotic plants
Image of the Day: Farming Ants
Amy Schleunes | Jan 22, 2020
Evolution imbued ants with an agriculture strategy that optimizes food rewards.
Image of the Day: Symbiotic Algae
Emily Makowski | Jan 13, 2020
Anemones keep their algae populations in check.
When Is an Endosymbiont an Organelle?
Ruth Williams | Oct 3, 2019
The finding that a bacterium within a bacterium within an animal cell cooperates with the host on a biosynthetic pathway suggests the endosymbiont is, practically speaking, an organelle.