Slime moulds germinate from a spore and begin life as a haploid (one set of chromosomes) amoebae organism, flowing along the floor of a forest, eating bacteria. When food supply becomes scarce, a chemical (cAMP) is released, which induces the individual amoebae to congregate into a mass: they form streams of cells, referred to as pseudoplasmodium, and the separate streams congregate to form a mass as large as one-hundred thousand cells. The individual amoeba secrete adhesion molecules; they bond together, and develop a slime sheet ‘cap’ that envelops the mass. The mass then behaves as a single organism, gliding across the forest floor, leaving a trail of slime in its wake.
It is a brainless, primeval organism, yet Japanese scientists have studied the slime mould colonies for years as the colonies have navigated mazes. The scientists believe that the behavior of the slime mould may facilitate the design of complex problem-solving bio-computers.
[Image by Toshiyuki Nakagaki].
According to Toshiyuki Nakagaki (at Hokkaido University’s Research Institute for Electronic Science), slime mold colonies use a form of information-processing to optimize a path through a maze (toward a food-source, which is signaled by a higher concentration of ammonia); and, at the same time, the organism avoids stressors that would damage it. They are able to adapt to environmental variations and can develop resistance to new stimulus.
Nakagaki’s research of slime mould garnered an Ig Nobel prize (Ig Nobel prizes are a spoof of Nobel Prizes and are awarded to scientists who “first make people laugh, and then make them think.”).
Apparently, slime moulds are able to develop more efficient networks than our most advanced technology. Masashi Aono, a researcher at Riken (in Waka, Japan) would like to develop a bio-computer: his lofty plan is to eventually duplicate the human brain with slime moulds.
For some reason the movie The Blob just burbled into consciousness.