Caterpillar-shaped bacteria may be moving around inside the mouth, as they evolved to adapt

Scientists have identified a microscopic, caterpillar-shaped bacteria that has adapted to live inside a person's mouth.

This microscopic, caterpillar-shaped bacterium may be slithering around inside your mouth because it appears to have evolved its shape to accommodate it, the study reveals.

  • Neisseriaceae is a family of microbes that includes caterpillar-like organisms
  • New research suggests that these microbes, which half of us carry in our mouths, evolved their shape to easily adapt to the mouths of humans.
  • There are more than 700 species of bacteria living in the average person’s mouth, even though it’s not the most welcoming environment.
  • The scientists said their work also has implications for the development of future pharmaceuticals

Scientists have identified a microscopic, caterpillar-shaped bacteria that has adapted to live inside a person’s mouth.

Known as Neisseriaceae, this family of microbes includes caterpillar-like organisms found in about half of humans.

New research by a group of international scientists suggests that they evolved their unique shape because it better fits the oral cavity of a human being.

Scientists have identified a microscopic, caterpillar-shaped bacteria that has adapted to live inside a person’s mouth.

Known as Neisseriaceae, this family of microbes includes caterpillar-like organisms found in about half of humans.

Known as Neisseriaceae, this family of microbes includes caterpillar-like organisms found in about half of humans.

The scientists said this family of bacteria can be a good model for studying cellular processes because of their ability to change specific anatomical shapes in response to different environments.

Although it may seem like your mouth is an ideal place for microbes to grow – there are more than 700 species of bacteria – it’s not the most welcoming place because the cells that line its inner surface are always they are erasing and our saliva makes it harder for organisms to stick to them.

The study published Monday in Nature Communications was led by a team of international researchers and sheds light on how multicellular organisms evolved and how bacteria divide longitudinally.

The scientists used a special microscope to study the shape of the bacteria in detail to understand their cell growth and compare it to more classic, rod-shaped species.

This bacterium can be a good model for studying cellular processes because of its ability to change specific anatomical shapes in response to different environments.  In the photo: N. elongata

This bacterium can be a good model for studying cellular processes because of its ability to change specific anatomical shapes in response to different environments. In the photo: N. elongata

While it may seem like your mouth is a great place for microbes to thrive (there are over 700 species of bacteria), it's not the friendliest place.  In the photo: S. muelleri

While it may seem like your mouth is a great place for microbes to thrive (there are over 700 species of bacteria), it’s not the friendliest place. In the photo: S. muelleri

Silvia Bulgheresi, from the Department of Functional and Evolutionary Ecology at the University of Vienna, explains what the team learned in a statement: “In addition to helping us understand how cell shape evolved, the Neisseriaceae multicellular organisms can be useful for studying how bacteria learned to live together on the surface of animals, the only place they have been found so far.

“By the way, half of us wear them in our mouths.”

Their study also has implications for the development of future drugs.

Philipp Weber of the University of Vienna, who also worked on the study, explains that “expanding the field of cell biology to additional morphologies and symbiotic species is also crucial to increase the set of protein targets (e.g. antibiotic targets) for biopharmaceutical applications”.

“We expect that in the course of evolution, through a reworking of the processes of elongation and division, the cell shape changed, perhaps to better thrive in the oral cavity,” said Veyrier.

“We expect that in the course of evolution, through a reworking of the processes of elongation and division, the cell shape changed, perhaps to better thrive in the oral cavity,” said Veyrier. In the upper image: A. filiformis

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