This is pretty amazing to think about!
When Yuri Gorby discovered that a microbe which transforms toxic metals can sprout tiny electrically conductive wires from its cell membrane, he reasoned this anatomical oddity and its metal-changing physiology must be related.
A colleague who had heard Gorby's presentation at a scientific meeting later reported that he, too, was able to coax nanowires from another so-called metal-reducing bacteria species and futher suggested the wires, called pili, could be used to bioengineer electrical devices.
It now turns out that not only are the wires and their ability to alter metal connected--but that many other bacteria, including species involved in fermentation and photosynthesis, can also form wires under a variety of environmental conditions.
"Earth appears to be hard-wired," said Gorby, staff scientist at the Department of Energy's Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.