The C-shaped Caulobacter crescentus use their glue to attach to surfaces in the watery environments they inhabit. When a team of biologists and physicists measured how much force it took to yank Caulobacter crescentus off a surface, it was about 5 tonnes per square inch.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
C. crescentus do not spend all of their life stuck down. Newborn C. crescentus, called swarmer, swim around powered by a rotating tail called a flagellum.
When they find a nice place to settle down, such as a pebble or a plant, they drop the flagellum (a lash-like appendage) and grow a stalk (a stem). At the tip of that stalk there is a bit called the holdfast, which lives up to its name with the help of sticky sugars.
Then, C. crescentus get down to the business of making baby bacteria. They split in half, and the half that isn’t stalked heads off as a new swarmer.
C. crescentus can live in fresh water, salt water and even tap water (don’t fret, it doesn’t typically cause disease). They thrive in places where there is almost nothing for them to eat. Scientists suspect that the stalk, in addition to being sticky, is also good at picking up nutrients.
WHY SYNTHESIZE THIS?
Extreme stickiness can be very useful for creating strong structures and durable material. Surely there are multiple scenarios where ultra stickiness could be useful.
- We nicknamed C. crescentus after “the Kragle” from the Lego movie. It’s a bottle of superglue, used by the evil Lord Business to glue the entire world together (which you can understand is a horrible thought in a world made entirely out of Legoes).
Image courtesy C. Crescentus: unknown
Image courtesy Lego movie still: johnthetoyshopguy