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Bug Behavior Roundup

October 26, 2007

Two tiny organisms team up to brew a deadly toxin.


A worm with a bacteria side-kick. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Nematodes are tiny roundworms that live almost everywhere. Many are beneficial, killing insect pests. At a meeting of the Society of General Microbiology, researchers describe the hunting behavior of one nematode that teams up with bacteria. The worms carry the bacteria inside an insect and then release them. The bacteria release a toxin that kills the bug, which they then devour. The bacteria reproduce and then the nematode eats the bacteria. The scientists hope the bacterial toxin could be a useful insecticide.

In other bug news, Vanderbilt University researchers studying cockroaches have found that they can learn new things only at night. In the morning, cockroaches are virtually unteachable. The researchers are studying the bug’s brains to better understand the factors involved in learning not only in bugs, but in people, too.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.