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Microbes compete with animals for food by making it stink

chloramphenicol added to suppress microbe growth. In the lab, stone crabs readily ate both freshly thawed menhaden and fish that had soaked in water with antibiotics, but refused to eat the rotten fish not protected from microbial attack.

To determine if reducing bacterial growth affected an animal's ability to find the bait, researchers also repeated the trapping experiment in the marsh, but used newly thawed fish, fish soaked in antibiotic treated water and fish aged without antibiotics. They found that both freshly thawed bait and aged, antibiotic-treated bait attracted animals more frequently than traps containing aged, microbe-laden menhaden.

Then researchers extracted various compounds from the microbe-laden bait to test whether chemicals produced by the microbes were indeed responsible for these feeding and attraction behaviors.

They found that chemical extracts composed of numerous compounds suppressed stone crab feeding when added to otherwise palatable fish flesh. But, of the several specific compounds they isolated and identified, none of the compounds by itself had this effect, Hay noted. So the researchers could not pinpoint a single compound causing the behaviors.

"But we can say the effect is chemical because we got rid of the nutrient and texture aspects of the bait and determined that it's something in this fraction of the bait's chemistry," Hay said. "It's either a complex mix of chemicals or perhaps something we destroyed during our lab test processes or maybe a chemical present in a very small amount that we failed to identify. There's uncertainty about this."

What's certain is that microbes are an omnipresent part of the ecosystem, Hay said. "They are not passively waiting on the bottom of the marsh floor for the rest of the community to deliver feces and other wastes that are not useful to anybody else," he added. "They are also trying to grab what they can at the start."

Hay hopes the
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Source:Georgia Institute of Technology Research News


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