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Those Sneaky Slime Molds

How much do you know about slime molds? These one-celled creatures live in our forests, but are so different from species we normally encounter that they seem almost extraterrestrial.

Slime molds are a remarkable lineage of amoebas that live in soil. While they spend part of their life as ordinary single-celled creatures, they sometimes grow into truly alien forms. Some species gather by the thousands to form multicellular bodies that can crawl. Others develop into gigantic, pulsating networks of protoplasm.

While naturalists have known of slime molds for centuries, only now are scientists really starting to understand them. Lab experiments are revealing the complex choreography of signals in some species that allows 20,000 individuals to form a single sluglike body.

Not only do they clump together, but they exhibit what might pass for a single-cell-type of intelligence. In order to act as one body, the individuals will connect, move, and even sacrifice their lives for the benefit of the colony. Carl Zimmer gives us some fascinating insight into what slime molds can do at the New York Times. Link -via The Loom

(Image credit: Flickr user myriorama)

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October 5th, 2011

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Stranger to the World

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