Saturday, March 28, 2009

Amoebas Threaten Texas!

A giant colony of genetically identical amoebas is oozing through Texas!

Scientists say the discovery is much more than a mere curiosity, because the colony consists of what are known as social amoebas. Only an apparent oxymoron, social amoebas are able to gather in organized groups and behave cooperatively, some even committing suicide to help fellow amoebas reproduce. The discovery of such a huge colony of genetically identical amoebas provides insight into how such cooperation and sociality might have evolved and may help to explain why microbes are being found to show social behaviors more often than was expected.

Better wear your galoshes.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Ralf the Dog said...

Sad that the colony died. It almost sounds like the early stages of cellular differentiation. I wonder about mutation. How much could you change one of their genetic codes and have the amoeba function as a part of the colony? (Don't worry, I understand cellular differentiation in an organism has nothing to do with genetic differences between cells. A skin cell is genetically the same as a neuron.)

It would also be cool to look at the method of communication. How does it compare to the ways more complex cells communicate? How did this method of communication evolve?

12:12 AM  
Blogger Peromyscus said...

I'm not sure why this was such a big surprise - self-organizing slime molds like Dictyostelium have been studied for many years. (http://herbie.ucsd.edu/~levine/dicty.html for movies and papers on cellular communication)
Was it just the sheer size?

10:31 AM  

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