Biofilms systematics

Nikolai Bugaenko bugar at post.krascience.rssi.ru
Sat Jan 18 09:09:46 EST 1997

Dear Biofilmonetters:

Doug Caldwell wrote:
> Biofilms have emergent properties which transcend the characteristics of
> their component microbial populations.  They may be self-organizing
> biological systems - units of activity, proliferation, propagation,
> ecology, and evolution - the reproductive success of the biofilm as a
> whole being dependent upon the microbial interactions and synergisms
> within it.

I doubt that "biofilms have emergent properties which transcend the
characteristics of
their component microbial populations". The difference is similarto that
one ebserved between an organism of any species, and the group of them:
say, a bird vs. flock, a dog vs. pack, etc., etc. This is rather well
known (but not well developed yet) are of ecology + etology: what
properties of the group of organisms could be derived (obtained,
calculated) from the properties of individuals? Mathematical ecologists
put a lot of efforts to promote this problem; unfortunately, I have a
list of references in russian, only. The main idea I want to stress is
that one should avoid to misusage of an analogy between an organism and
a group of individuals. First of all, an organis consists of the
specialized cells which fail to survive without another ones. Yes, there
exist few species with the similar behaviour, but it looks like an

> This means that we may need a formalized system of biofilm systematics.
> If there is more than one kind of biofilm, how should we name each of
> them so we can discuss them?  Should we give them numbers (like
> bacterial viruses) or ecological names (e.g. grassland, mixed conifer
> forest, etc.)  How should they be classified, differentiated, and
> identified?   This seems an important step if biofilm microbiology is to
> mature as a scientific discipline.

That' true. Yes, we need a fruitful theory to predict a size. life
duration, etc. properties of a cell flock. For years I deal with the
flocculation of (bacterial) cells in continuous culture systems. We have
found the flocculation improves (sometimes) a biological oxidation of
the substrate. Quite often the flocculation occurrs at the mixed
cultures <bacteria - protozoa> that are the prey-predator systems. Here
the flocculation may bring an advantage, since it decreases the
predation of bacterial cells. We have developed some models to describe
this phenomenon. I guess, the flocks should be separated into several
types. The basic question to me is what principle should be take for
this classification. Since all my interest was of an application
flavour, I never had enough time to think on it. Any your comments would
be appreciated.

Regards, Michael G.Sadovsky,
Institute of Biophysics of SD of RAS;
660036 Russia, Krasnoyarsk
tel. +7-(3912)-494101; fax: +7-(3912)-433400;
e-mail: bugar at post.krascience.rssi.ru

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