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.

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