No Need to Protist

protistsHow do you find your dinner if you live underground and can’t see anything? You sniff it out. Like the mole that uses scent to find its prey, tiny single-celled organisms called protists have been found to target their desired meal – soil bacteria – using scent. Ecologists have long known that soil bacteria emit scents, caused by volatile organic compounds, as a way of talking to each other, but they have now discovered that the protist ‘eavesdrops’ on the communication between bacteria. Because soil bacteria cause plant disease, scientists at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology are keen to develop protists as a form of biological pest control, which could have far-reaching implications for agriculture.