Social Amoeba

Posted on December 22, 2008  Comments (1)

Amoebic Morality by Carol Otte

At first their behavior might seem odd; to gather together in the face of starvation surely ought to end in cannibalism or death. Not so, for they are capable of an extraordinary and rare transformation. The amoebas set aside their lives as individuals and join ranks to form a new multicellular entity. Not all the amoebas will survive this cooperative venture, however. Some will sacrifice themselves to help the rest find a new life elsewhere.

These astonishing creatures are Dictyostelium discoideum, and they are a member of the slime mold family. They are also known as social amoebas. Aside from the novelty value of an organism that alternates between unicellular and multicellular existence, D. discoideum is highly useful in several areas of research. Among other things, this organism offers a stellar opportunity to study cell communication, cell differentiation, and the evolution of altruism.

In response to the cAMP distress call, up to one hundred thousand of the amoebas assemble. They first form a tower, which eventually topples over into an oblong blob about two millimeters long. The identical amoebas within this pseudoplasmodium– or slug– begin to differentiate and take on specialized roles.

Another cool example of how life has evolved novel solutions to perpetuate genes.

Related: Thinking Slime MouldsBe Thankful for Marine AlgaeHow Bacteria Nearly Destroyed All Life

One Response to “Social Amoeba”

  1. Vicky Adams
    December 24th, 2008 @ 6:40 am

    I think it’s interesting to obeserve and learn about microscopic life. The tiny creatures is not as simple as we thought. They are complicated.
    Nice topic.

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