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2018-04-30. A Population That Pollutes Itself Into Extinction (and It’s Not Us).

posted May 4, 2018, 9:31 PM by Alan Gould
By Natalie Angier, The New York Times. For GSS Population Growth chapter 2. Excerpt: ...scientists have discovered that just as a big holiday sale can quickly crush the wisdom of a human crowd underfoot, so can a microbial village be infected with mass stupidity, to devastating effect. Jeff Gore, a biophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his colleagues Christoph Ratzke and Jonas Denk, report that when a sample of Paenibacillus sp., a soil bacteria, is fed a diet of glucose and nutrients in the laboratory and allowed to grow at will, the microbes end up polluting their local environment so quickly and completely that the entire population soon kills itself off. In essence, the researchers said, the microbes commit “ecological suicide.” [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=ecological+suicide+in+microbes] The study was published in April in Nature Ecology and Evolution. “The effect is so dramatic,” Dr. Gore said. “You have an exponential growth of the population followed by exponential death.” Within 24 hours of the onset of the death spiral, he said, “no viable cells were left in the entire culture.”It’s not that the microbes had exhausted their resources: Food remained to feed on. But in gorging heedlessly on the glucose bounty, each bacterium had secreted a steady flow of acidic waste into the culture medium, until the ambient pH level had plunged lethally low.... https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/30/science/microbes-ecological-suicide.html