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ETpro's avatar

Aren't slime molds fascinating?

Asked by ETpro (34202 points ) February 20th, 2011

Slime molds are perhaps the intermediary step life took in evolution from simple, single-cell organisms to organized collections of cells, each with a specific purpose aimed at supporting the communal good of the entire collection of cells. In an abundance of the bacteria that slime mold cells eat, they all act as individual one-celled organisms, gorging themselves on the food source, dividing, and going back to consuming food.

But as food availability becomes limited, specific cells send out a chemical signal calling other cells to them, and these attracted cells amplify this chemical signal until a large colony of cells, many hundreds of thousands strong, has gathered. This assembly then takes on individualized functions. They form an outer rim that keeps sending out the attractor chemical. They organize from an amorphous blob to an elongated structure with a distinct head and tail. The tail flagellates, guided by the head to move the organism to an appropriate point where it takes hold, sends up a budding stalk with a bulbous top that eventually explodes releasing millions of spores. Any spore reaching a suitable source of food becomes a new slime mold cell repeating the process of eating and reproducing single cells till the available food is consumed and the organization process begins again.

Isn’t nature utterly fascinating in all its many approaches to continue life?

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12 Answers

TexasDude's avatar

Absolutely, though I’m partial to Nudibranches, myself.

crisw's avatar

“But evolution is also driven by cooperation
Just ask the dictyostelium nation”

Baba Brinkman
Group Selection

crisw's avatar

Also,this recent research on slime molds as bacteria farmers.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, all expressions of nature are mind boggling.
Right now I am wondering how the Pacific tree frogs start breeding when there is snow on the ground. The roar of the frogs at night over here can reach deafening proportions and their breeding season is here now.

marinelife's avatar

Slime molds are quite lovely or they can be.

In the Valentine’s Day episode of Bones, Hodgins’ present for Andrea is a slime mold into which he spliced the gene for the scent of roses and named the new species after her.

TexasDude's avatar

I want a pet slime mold now…. or would that technically be a slime mold garden?

Michael_Huntington's avatar

I find them frightening.

dreamer31's avatar

Don’t know much about them but they sound cool.

syz's avatar

I’m amazed by the complex relationships that some parasites have with their hosts.

A fungus that infects ants causes them completely change their behavior and climb to the top of a piece of grass, where they die and the spores burst out of the body, drifting down onto ants in the surrounding area.

The horsehair worm causes grasshoppers and crickets to drown themselves, allowing the parasite to lay its eggs in water.

Toxiplasma gondii causes infected rodents to specifically lose their inborn aversion to cat pheromones. This behavior is beneficial to toxiplasma, because it sexually reproduces in cats that have eaten infected mice and rats. Infected cats in turn spread toxiplasma through their droppings. People infected with toxiplasma also exhibit behavioral changes, particularly a decrease in “novelty seeking”. It’s been proposed that toxiplasma infection has actually changed human culture, since there is a correlation between countries with a high rate of toxiplasma infection and increased neuroticism, uncertainty avoidance, and “masculine” sex roles. (Source)

Anemone's avatar

I think slime molds are interesting, and I think it’s funny that it’s a standard joke to suggest otherwise. (Like that it’s an interest of the nerdy scientist in Ghostbusters, for example.)

ETpro's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Those Nudibranches are truly cool too. Of course, they are rather simplistic fellows in comparison to we cephalopods, but what can you expect. They are slugs, after all.

@crisw Great sound track. Thanks. And I really appreciate the link to the slime-mold farmers as well.

@Coloma Roar of the frogs? Wow1

@marinelife Now why didn’t I think of that for my wife this Valentine’s day.

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard Start with a slime-mold garden, end up with a slime mold farm,

@Michael_Huntington No reason to fear them unless you happen to be a bacterium they like to eat.

@dreamer31 Study up. They are cool.

@syzm That is fascinating. Any chance that explains the American far right?

@Anemone Agreed. Thanks.

TexasDude's avatar

I missed that link… freakin’ awesome.

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