“Slime can see” reports ScienceDaily 9 February 2016 about some organisms that are effectively micro-eyeballs, also reported in BBC News and Science Shots 9 February 2016, and eLife, 2016; 5 doi: 10.7554/eLife.12620. A group of scientists from Germany, Portugal and UK have studied the light sensing properties of bacterium named Synechocystis, a type of blue-green algae – microbes that function like microscopic plants, and therefore need to be able to find light for photosynthesis. These microbes can sense the direction of light shining on them, and will move towards it, a process called phototaxis. How they did this was rather a mystery, as at three micrometres (0.003mm) across they are only a few wavelengths of light in size, and considered to be too small to notice any detectable difference in the brightness of light from one side to the other in order for them to know which direction the light is coming from.

It turns out the bacteria Synechocystis are spherical in shape, and the researchers found the whole cell functions like a lens, focussing the light on the opposite side of the cell from where it came from. The focussed spot of light stimulates the bacterium to move in the direction where the light is coming from. This focussing mechanism results in a 360 degree image of their world being projected onto the inside surface of the cell. The researchers worked out it would have a resolution of about 21 degrees. This would produce a fuzzy image, but it would be enough for the photoreceptor molecules in the cell surface to detect where the light is coming from. (a human eye has a resolution of 0.02 degrees.)

Also, it seems they can work out when light is coming from two places, then integrate that information and move in an intermediate direction.

According to Annegret Wilde, who led the research team, “This physical principle is actually hardly different from the way light is focused in the lenses of our eyes”.

Not all blue-green algae are spherical, and the scientists plan to continue their studies to see if similar light concentrating optics exist in non-spherical microbes.

BBC, ScienceDaily, Science Shots, eLife

Editorial Comment: WOW is the word! We predict that when scientists study non-spherical blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) they will find even more brilliant design features.

Blue-green algae in lakes, rivers and oceans are essential for maintaining life on earth as they produce a large proportion of the oxygen in the atmosphere, and to do that they need to see the light of the world, and use it in this process. This research helps show how exquisitely they are designed for this vital function, and come on, say it! God the Creator is really good at this stuff. Optical engineering requires some of the most precision design we know about.

Furthermore, setting up a system inside the cell to respond appropriately to the focussed light requires more plan and purpose, and the God of the Biblical text revealed in Christ has got all that is needed to do this, so let us give Him the praise that is due to His name. (Ref. microbes, photosynthesis, design, optics)

Evidence News vol. 16, No.4
9 March 2016
Creation Research Australia