This is a biological article:
- For a territory administered by another territory see: Colony
- For a group attempting to affiliate with a Fraternity or Sorority see: Colony (fraternity)
In biology, a colony (from Latin colonia) refers to several individual organisms of the same species living closely together, usually for mutual benefit, such as stronger defences, the ability to attack bigger prey, etc. Some insects (ants and honey bees, for example) live only in colonies. The Portuguese Man o' War is an example of a colony of four different polyps.
A colony of single-celled organisms is known as a colonial organism. Colonial organisms were probably the first step towards multicellular organisms during evolution. The difference between a multicellular organism and a colonial organism is that individual organisms from a colony can, if separated, survive on their own, while cells from a multicellular lifeform (e.g., liver cells) cannot. Volvox is an example for the border between these two states.
A bacterial colony (or colony of other microorganisms), is defined as a cluster of organisms growing on the surface of or within a solid medium, usually cultured from a single cell. Because all organisms within the colony descend from a single ancestor, they are genetically identical (except for mutations which occur at a low, unavoidable frequency), thus this technique can be used to isolate genetically pure strains from a genetically mixed population.