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Tracy Mincer in the lab

Bacterial Behavior

Microbial ecologist Tracy Mincer assesses a culture of bacteria in his lab at WHOI. Mincer studies the chemical compounds marine microbes produce to communicate with each other, defend themselves, and perform other necessary functions. He and colleagues at MIT recently discovered a form of altruistic behavior among microbes: One common group of marine bacteria produces potent antibiotics that kill unrelated bacteria but that do not harm their closest relatives. Only some of the bacteria within a family make the antibiotics, so that the action of a few protects the entire group. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

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