Monday, February 28, 2011

Fleas rule.

 Did you know water-fleas have more genes than humans? 5 millimeters long, the water flea packs in more genes than any species yet sequenced. With 30,907 genes, Daphnia pulex has at least 5,000 more than humans!
Many newly evolved to help the fleas combat climatic changes and pollutants.

(New Scientist, January 22, 2011)

We can't do that can we?

Image from this fantastic website.

Slime mould and lettuce.

These days and times people seem to have many eating problems.
Where does one draw the line between what we can or cannot eat on moral and philosophical grounds, pretentious allergies or maybe just wimpy?

I used to point out that no one thinks about the lettuce.
It's ripped out of the ground before it's had a chance to have babies.
Just because we cannot see their tears.....

As I was cleaning the bath with Ajax a new dilemma occurred to me. I am killing the happy farming slime moulds (or social Amoebas, as biologists now prefer to call them.)

Is there anything left that we can eat or kill when even a single celled creature is of such higher significance in the universe?

Monday, February 21, 2011


Slime moulds have added another skill to their impressive resume. They practice a primitive form of farming.

Slime moulds - or social amoebas, as biologist now prefer to call them - have been shown to find the shortest route through mazes and pick the most nutritious food from a buffet.

As single cells grazing on bacteria. When food is scarce, the amoebae clump together to migrate to better feeding grounds, and reproduce by forming a capsule full of spores.

Debra Brock of Rice University in Houston, Texas, noticed that a third of the strains always packaged bacteria along with their spores in the capsule. (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature09668).

This means they can "seed" a food crop when they colonize a new habitat.
"The farmers" even stop feeding before all the bacteria are gone to ensure there are some left to store as seed.

In contrast, the non farmers keep feeding to the bitter end, leaving no bacteria to package.

Bob Holmes New Scientist 22 January 2011

Read more about these fascinating social amoebas on my website Ireneosophy here.