Slime molds that farm bacteria

January 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Wired Science has a cool post on evidence that some strains of Dictyostelium discoideum carry bacteria around with them, apparently to seed them into new environments so that their progeny can later be eaten.

Dicty is an fascinating little organism that often lives as a single-celled amoeba.  When food gets scarce communities of the single cells accumulate together and make a multi-celled slug, which can then travel off in search of food.  The new evidence suggests that the single cells can also cooperate to integrate food bacteria into the slug for transport; which means that they are deciding not to eat every last bacterium they have access to, and instead saving some for later farming.  Some strains (“farmer strains”) consistently do this, others don’t. How interesting.

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