(Photo: Eshel Ben-Jacob)

This flower-like image is the work of Eshel Ben-Jacob, a professor of physics at Tel Aviv University in Israel.

Working with colleagues at the Center for Theoretical Biological Physics at the University of California, San Diego, he wants to unravel what it is that makes bacteria so adept at survival by looking at pattern formation in complex dynamic systems alongside the molecular biology and biophysics of bacteria.

Ben-Jacob’s work is artificially coloured, but the pattern is produced by the bacteria responding to stresses put upon them. For example, by limiting the food source, the colony can be made to reorganise itself into long tendrils, increasing its surface area to find more nutrients.

New Scientist