Social Amoebas and You

While naturalists have their systems and rate various living things are primitive or advanced, many other recognize that our Creator has designed organisms for ecological niches. Sure, why not? Human societies have seemingly less important people to make society function, God has placed social amoebas and the like in the biosphere.

People have unknowingly seen colonies of social amoebas. This kind of mold has its purpose. It is studied for use in transportation system mapping.
Physarum polycephalum image credit: Flickr / Bernard Spragg
It may seem funny or "alpha male" to eat moldy bread, but that is potentially dangerous; some molds can be scraped off and the food is still safe, others must be discarded. Mold has a function, even if people find it disgusting at times.

There is another kind of mold that many have seen but may not be able to identify. One of its names is "social amoeba" because it is actually a colony comprised of single-celled amoebas. Another name is rather unpleasant: slime mold. The Latin name Physarum polycephalum is cumbersome. It is often found in wooded areas. In a surprising bit of biomimetics, its food-seeking ability has been studied and may be applied in the mapping of transportation systems!
The variety that eats decaying wood seeks food by sending out thin strands in various directions. When a nutrient is located, tendrils with the shortest and most efficient path thicken, while other unsuccessful branches pull back.

Scientists wanted to test just how efficient this single-celled, mindless mold is at hunting bits of decaying wood, and they were amazed by what they found. Researchers had found that wood mold can successfully navigate a maze from one food source to another. To test the limits of their foraging ability, Japanese and British researchers created another test.

To read all of this short article (or listen to the audio version by my favorite reader), click on "Slime Mold—Mindless Mapmakers".