Researchers have built a real-life game of Pac-Man that’s only visible under a microscope, Discover reports. The 1-millimeter version of the arcade classic features microbes in place of the game’s pixelated characters.
Researchers at the University College of Southeast Norway constructed the maze as a way to observe the predator-prey interactions between microscopic organisms. Euglena and ciliates stand in for the Pac-Men, while predatory rotifers chase them around the structure like ghosts.
Watching microbes navigate a Pac-Man-style maze instead of the petri dishes scientists normally work with actually has its advantages. In their natural habitats, rotifers follow prey through tunnels of peat and moss. The 3-D course is a more faithful simulation of the environments they’d see in the real world.
Just like human Pac-Man enthusiasts, the rotifers appeared to get better at traversing the maze the longer they were in it. It’s possible that chemical trails the microbes left behind as they hunted acted as a trail of bread crumbs of sorts leading them back towards familiar routes.
With the new experiment, the scientists hope to get the public excited about microscopic organisms they may never think of otherwise. Making microbes seem cool is quite the challenge, but Pac-Man is the perfect choice to do so—36 years after its debut, the game is still entertaining players both in and out of arcades.
All images courtesy of YouTube.
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