An individual bacteria cell can't reach very far. And when stacked on the sea floor in a large colony, it may have access to either oxygen (top of the pile) or food (bottom of the pile).
So for the entire colony to thrive, the bottom and top layers must be choreographed in chemical reactions occurring across great expanses, allowing electrons from food consumption in the basement to react to oxygen from the rooftop.
A new study just published in Nature set to isolate the way bacteria pull of this stunt. The first guess, molecular diffusion, was found to be too slow for as dynamically as these colonies reacted in various testing. Now? It's believed the bacteria use interconnected nanowires, sharing electrons across expanses 20,000 times their individual size - though to be fair, there's no direct evidence proving the existence of said wires.