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How Do Colonies Help Microorganisms Survive?

How Do Colonies Help Microorganisms Survive?


Life in the microcosmos is tough for its unicellular
residents. Prokaryotes and protists have to compete for
food and space while also trying to avoid organisms that are more than happy to see
all of their complex, energy-filled biological bits as an afternoon snack, and managing those
tasks can be even more daunting when you are very, very small. So instead of facing all these challenges
alone, many of these organisms treat survival as a team effort. As cells divide, they adhere to one another,
building a colony that becomes larger and larger with every cell division. An individual cell can only get so big before
its size comes at the expense of other abilities. But a colony can get much bigger, providing
protection against predators and a competitive advantage when it comes to finding space and
food. And as the cells come together and organize,
a colony can enable organisms to do so much more than they could on their own. It’s an advantage that became a vital step
on the path not just to more complexity in the microcosmos, but also a vital step on
the path to us. But before we get to that, let’s check out
this long green thing cutting across the screen. Maybe it looks like a blade of grass, rudely
floating in everybody’s way. But if you look closer, you can see thin filaments
made up of individual cells of a freshwater cyanobacteria called Aphanizomenon. Often times the names of these organisms are
really a pain to say, but Aphanizomenon is just a joy. If these cells were on their own, they’d
basically be little balls of candy just waiting to get chomped but these long grass-like structures
make it harder for filter feeders like water flea to eat the Aphanizomenon colony. In lakes and ponds, these grassy structures can accumulate, creating dense, visible blooms that release
toxins into the water. Nostoc colonies are also made up of filaments,
like a string of beads, where the beads are cyanobacteria. But where Aphanizomenon likes to keep its
strands elongated, Nostoc wraps its filaments around a structure made mostly of different
types of sugar that it excretes to create a round, gelatinous mass. These colonies vary in size, but some particularly
large ones have been measured with a diameter of 22 cm. I realize I said that like 22cm is very big,
but it is when you’re talking about a colony of single-celled organisms. Nostoc use sunlight to make their food. But in the process, they also produce oxygen. This is a problem because Nostoc also likes
to fix nitrogen from the air to make necessary chemicals , and oxygen interferes with a key
step in that process. But living in a colony means that some of
the Nostoc cells can specialize, developing a thicker exterior that prevents oxygen from
getting inside the cell. These specialized cells are called heterocysts,
and they can focus on fixing nitrogen without any worries of intruding oxygen, while the
rest of the colony can continue photosynthesizing. Bacteria aren’t the only species that form
colonies. These spiked, circular creatures are Pseudopediastrum
boryanum. The colonies are flat, and the cells are arranged
in concentric circles around each other. Where the Aphanizomenon and Nostoc colonies
we showed earlier seemed to be full of cells strung together, the Pseudopediastrum colonies
are usually made up of 8,16, or 32 cells, whose walls contain sporopollenin, a hardy
material that protects the cells from the environment. The gold algae Synura also forms colonies,
with individual cells coming together like little yellow marigolds. Each cell is encased in silica scales and
has two whip-like structures called flagella, which tumble the colony through water. When Synuras bloom, they can turn a whole
pond yellow, letting off a smell that is somewhat hard to describe, but even if you can’t
see the pond, you’ll definitely be able to smell it. This Gonium colony is made up of several flagellated
cells arranged in a sphere. It may look simpler compared to some of the
other colonies we’ve seen, but with the rest of its volvocine algae relatives, it
may hold answers to how multicellular life evolved. Members of this genus are either unicellular
or form colonies that, through evolution, have increased in complexity from species
to species, like this Eudorina colony, whose structure is more complex when compared to
its predecessors. Like Gonium, the Eudorina colony is made up
of only one type of cell, repeated around its surface. But these colonies created the structure that
would serve as the evolutionary stepping stone for a species just on the edge of multicellular,
Pleodorina, which contains specialized reproductive cells, and then ultimately to the definitely
multi-cellular Volvox algae. Like the colonies before it, Volvox is built
around a gooey transparent matrix. And like Pleodorina, it contains a set of
specialized reproductive cells, just a tad bit more specialized. Those smaller green spots are somatic cells,
or body cells. they don’t reproduce or divide, and one
of their main jobs is to help move the colony using their flagella. But after a few days, when their duty is done,
those cells die. Meanwhile, on the inside are the larger gonidia
cells, which drive asexual reproduction and might be immortal. Now remember the Nostoc colonies that we talked
about before? They also had elements of specialization,
with some cells devoted to nitrogen fixing and others devoted to photosynthesis. The difference between Nostoc and Volvox however,
is that Volvox reproduces by creating multi-cellular daughters inside of it. The gonidia cells divide creating a kind of
baby volvox with all of the somatic cells and gonidia cells it will need as it matures. It’s an organism inside an organism, and
when they’re released, it is not cell division, it’s is birth. Another example of how, when you look very
very close, every sharp line turns out to be blurry. The colonies that assemble in the microcosmos
are important, not just for the survival of the organisms that comprise them, but to us and our own understanding of how our own multicellular existence came into being. Whether bacteria or algae, the way these colonies
come together and the shapes they take on can be as distinctive as the individual organisms
they’re made of. They make life in the microcosmos just that
much more complex, forming the foundations for multicellular life both under the microscope and beyond. Thank you for coming on this journey with us. If you want to see more from our Master of Microscopes, James check out Jam and Germs on Instagram. And if you want a new video like this in your subscription box every week, there’s gotta be a subscribe button somewhere nearby.

100 thoughts on “How Do Colonies Help Microorganisms Survive?”

  1. 0:08 Rotifer eating Uroglena (gold algae)

    0:46 Zoothamnium (freshwater/marine ciliate with branching colonies)

    1:42 Aphanizomenon (freshwater cyanobacteria, fixes nitrogen, produces toxic blooms)

    2:44 Nostoc (large ball of cyanobacteria filaments, freshwater, fixes nitrogen)

    4:14 Pseudopediastrum boryanum (flat, round colony of green algae)

    4:52 Synura (spherical colonies of gold algae with flagella, forms yellow pond blooms)

    5:27 Gonium (spherical colonies of ciliated green algae, precursor to multicellular life)

    5:57 Eudorina (spherical colonies of flagellated green algae)

    6:23 Pleodorina (spherical colonies of ciliated green algae with reproductive cells)

    6:33 Volvox (spherical colonies of green algae with reproductive cells, multicellular)

    8:10 Pleodorina

  2. Ooh
    I wonder if you guys are gonna do a vid on Kinorhynchs AKA mud dragons, theyre weird little critters yet nobody studies them at all for some reason and we dont even know what theyre eating yet! Not to mention it looks like they have a bowlcut and thats precious

  3. I’d pay a fine dollar for a 10 hour clip HD movie of just stentors and rotifers doing their thing. oh and tardigrades too

  4. Jeesh… what should we call this one? It looks kinda like a little star…. oh yeah, that'll work, kinda-like-a-little-star! Pseudopediastrum!

    Is that how that went? Because it's what it sounds like.

  5. Does anyone know how colonies at this level fit into the selfish gene theory?
    By the way, this is one of the most amazing youtube channels out there! Never seen anything like it!

  6. These videos and this channel are truly incredible. Really helps understand how something like evolution could bring a single cell organism all the way to us.

  7. Mind absolutely blown. The boundary which we call "unicellular life / multicellular life" is not a category distinction, but a very blurred line, and blurred via the gradual process of evolution which we are able to observe practically in real-time. We can SEE multicellular life evolving!

  8. Some cyano colonies, which I regularly find in a lake, are more than 5 cm in length. The smaller ones look like emeralds in the sunlight 💚

  9. What's the technical distinction between a colony of single celled organisms and a multicellular organism? Or rather, when does a colony become an organism itself? I don't have the expertise enough to understand the difference, since the Nostic colony with its specialized individuals starts to blur the line. I'm interested in this topic.

  10. so DNA is like a script from mother and father to tell our colony how to make us… interesting which would explain when the script fucks up we get weird shit.

  11. My question is: how the hell do they even exist?

    Y’all heard about that Portuguese man o’ war? Yeah, how does it do that?!

  12. This channel has very quickly become one of my very favorite things on YouTube. I think you guys have discovered an important and untapped niche, and I foresee this becoming quite the hit. Thank you for this incredible work!

  13. I remember learning about Volvox in uni and thinking "woah, that is one weird and beautiful organism". I'm glad that people who aren't biology students get to learn about it as well. And it looks better in this video than it did under my microscope!

  14. As may be established empirically, matter is not essential so that existence may be made subject to it, and be dependent on it. Rather, matter subsists through a meaning, and that meaning is life, it is spirit.
    Also, as may be established through observation, matter is not the thing served so that everything may be ascribed to it. It is rather the servant; it renders service to the process of the perfection of a truth. And that truth is life. And the fundament of that truth is spirit.
    Also, as is self-evident, matter is not dominant so that recourse may be made to it or perfections sought from it. Rather, it is dominated; it looks to the decree of some fundament, it is in motion in the way that that decree dictates. And that fundament is life, it is spirit, it is consciousness.
    Also, as is necessary, matter is not the kernel, it is not the fundament, it is not a settled abode so that events and perfections may be affixed to it or constructed on it. Rather, it is a shell prepared to be split, rent, dissolved; it is a husk, it is froth, it is a form.
    Consider the following: a creature so minute it can only be seen with a microscope has such acute senses it can hear its friend's voice, and see its sustenance; it has extremely sensitive and sharp senses. This demonstrates that the effects of life increase and the light of the spirit intensifies in proportion to the reducing and refining of matter. It is as though the more matter is refined and the more we become distanced from our material existences, the closer we draw to the world of the spirit, the world of life, and the world of consciousness; and the more intensely the heat of the spirit and the light of life are manifested.
    Is it therefore at all possible that there should be this many distillations of life, consciousness, and spirit within this veil of materiality, and that the inner world which is beyond this veil should not be full of conscious beings and beings with spirits? Is it at all possible that the sources of these numberless distillations, flashes, and fruits of meaning, spirit, life and the truth apparent in this material existence in the Manifest World should be ascribed only to matter and the motion of matter, and be explained by it? God forbid! Absolutely not! These innumerable distillations and flashes demonstrate that this material and manifest world is but a lace veil strewn over the inner and spirit worlds.
    Risale-i Nur Collection Words – 526

  15. SEVENTH FLASH
    Look! With little difficulty you can see the seals of the Single, Eternally Besought One on the page of the earth, so raise your head, open your eyes, and look too at the great book of the universe. You will see that on it as a whole a stamp of unity is read out which is as clear as it is big. For like the components of a factory or members of a palace or town, these beings support one another, stretch out their hands to assist one another, and answer the needs and requests of one another, saying: "Here I am, at your service!" Assisting one another, they work together in order. Joining efforts, they serve animate beings. Co-operating and turned a single goal, they obey an All-Wise Disposer. They conform to a rule of mutual assistance which is in force from the sun and moon, night and day, and winter and summer, to plants coming to the assistance of hungry and needy animals, and animals hastening to the assistance of weak, noble men, and even nutritious substances flying to assist delicate, weak infants and fruits, and particles of food passing to the assistance of the cells of the body. They show to anyone who is not altogether blind that they are acting through the strength of a single, most generous Nurturer, and at the command of a single most wise Disposer.
    Thus, on the one hand this mutual support and assistance, this answering one another's needs, this mutual embracing, this subjugation, this order, testify decisively that beings are administered and organized by a single Disposer and are being impelled and directed by a single Nurturer. And on the other hand, this perfect grace within the universal wisdom to be seen plainly in the art of things; and the all-embracing mercy which shines within the providence; and the sustenance spread over that mercy and scattered so as to answer the needs of all living beings needy for sustenance; -these form a stamp of Divine unity so brilliant that anyone whose mind is not altogether extinguished will understand it and anyone who is not altogether blind will see it.
    Yes, a veil of wisdom demonstrating intention, consciousness, and will, has covered the whole universe, and upon that veil of wisdom has been spread a veil of grace and favour exhibiting beneficence, adornment, embellishment, and benevolence; and over that adorned veil of favour a garment of mercy displaying flashes of making known and loved, of bestowal and the granting of gifts has enveloped the universe; and spread over that illuminated veil of universal mercy is a table of general provisions showing kindness and bestowal and benevolence and perfect compassion and fine nurturing and dominical favour.
    Yes, all beings from particles to suns, whether individuals or species, or large or small, have been clothed in a magnificent shirt of wisdom embroidered with fruits and aims, benefits and purposes. And over the wisdom-displaying shirt, a garment of favour embroidered with flowers of grace and beneficence has been cut out in accordance with the stature of things; and over that ornamented garment of favour, a general table of sustenance has been set up, lit up with flashes of love, bestowal, affection, and the granting of gifts, to which the decorations of mercy have been attached, and which, together with bestowing those illuminated and jewel-encrusted decorations, is sufficient for all the groups of living beings on the face of the earth, and meets all their needs. Thus, this matter points to an All-Glorious Provider Who is All-Wise, All-Generous, and All-Compassionate, and shows Him as clearly as the sun.
    Is that so? Is everything in need of sustenance?
    Yes, like individual beings are in need of sustenance and all the necessities to continue their lives, we see that all the beings in the world, and especially living beings, whether universal or particular, wholes or parts, have many desires and needs, material and otherwise, for their existence, their lives, and the continuation of their lives. But their wants and needs are for such things that their hands cannot reach the least of them and their power is insufficient for the smallest of them. Yet, we see that all their wishes and material and immaterial sustenance is given to them From where he could not imagine, {[*]: Qur'an, 65:3.} from unhoped for places, with perfect order, at the appropriate time, in a suitable fashion, with perfect wisdom. And so, does this want and need of creatures and this manner of unseen help and assistance not show an All-Wise and Glorious Nurturer, an All-Compassionate Beauteous Disposer?
    Risale-i Nur Collection Words – 309

  16. Journey to the Microcosmos

    Hay Hank. Please make a video about the critters that turn the wort I make into beer.

  17. Did you know the magnification is also how much they slowed Hank's voice down by? The joke is that Hank has been known for speaking quickly. You may laugh now.

  18. Great video's, but the propaganda of species forming new species, which is never observed in history, is very unscientific.
    In Darwin's time, genes and chromosomes weren't discovered yet, knowledge on the complexity of cells was not available, but genes are a program for how to build the cell. Programs aren't created by accident.

  19. I love this series, however, I'm sad to say the text in this one seems slightly subpar compared to the previous episodes.

  20. How do colonies help microorganisms survive? By handing over 20% of their hard earned $$$ to the tax office for thieves on welfare

  21. I know a certain someone who is just a bit obsessed with arthropod biology who would love an episode on microcrustaceans. Yes, I'm referring to myself.

  22. I want your videos to be longer and have more information. I would not mind at least 15 minutes of footage. OR how about you do like 30 minute videos every week!? I'm a big fan and you shed light on the microcosmos for me but I want more. It is so super interesting and sometimes I am left with more questions at the end of a video!
    I also enjoy watching the microcosmos footage without any comments. It is mesmerizing. And with some background music you've got yourself a very relaxing but fascinating video.

  23. Looked up nostoc in its macro form and was supprised by how often I've seen those colonies and wondered what they are. Alway assumed they were some kind of fungi. Apparently people even make salad from that stuff.

  24. So the 'jump' from single cell to multicellular life isn't all that mysterious like people say? it seems to me almost inevitable in the context of the information in this video. What's the big deal with multicelluar life? Must do research.

  25. 😄 At one point in the vid I saw a little cell that was just lying there lifeless and I thought "Awe, poor little guy's dead." Then I realized it was a speck of dirt on my screen. 😂

  26. How does it look like when rotifers or these wonderful colonies get invaded by bacteria or viruses?

    Looking at these colonies of microorganisms going about their average(?) day, I began to ask whether these small groups of microorganisms had to contend with disease. Does the Journey to the Microcosmos have access to footage of colonies (or individual species) fighting off infection?

  27. @02:00 I've always called this one the cucumber kraken
    @02:56 ..and this one, the sea kiwi
    @05:09 ..this is commonly called greasy fried okra
    @06:48 ..this is why you should never leave exposed and intact egg yolks in the refrigerator for more than 0 days.

  28. Why the volvox is not considers as multi cellular organism and just as a colony? Becoz their is no "brain" to control everything?

  29. I just got to this video late. I always wondered about evolution and how things developed multiple specialized organs., It now makes perfect sense: it started with colonies!

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