If someone told you that the shallow seabeds of Northern Europe were full of buried electrical wiring, you might say “Yeah, internet and phone and stuff. So what?” But what if that person told you that the wiring was alive?
Don’t worry. They aren’t crazy. Danish scientists have described a bacterium that can assemble itself into filaments many centimeters long (which is cool by itself), and use those filaments to conduct electrical currents! One square meter of seabed can have kilometers of bacterial cable beneath it!! So how does it work?
Decomposing materials deep in the mud are digested by all kinds of microorganisms and create “sulphide” compounds. These sulphides transfer electrons to one buried end of the bacterial chain, who then transfer it up to the water-exposed end where those electrons can be used to harvest oxygen for metabolism. Just like we do in our cells!
Only they do it via a way cooler method than we do. I really don’t know what’s more interesting, that these are multicellular bacteria (for all intents and purposes), or that they are basically living electrical wires.
Here’s the paper in Nature, if you have access.