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Facing death, slime molds pack a survival kit for their offspring

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slime mold spore cases/Usman Bashir (CC BY-SA 4.0)

From Susan Milius at ScienceNews:

In the final frenzy of reproduction and death, social amoebas secrete proteins that help preserve a starter kit of food for its offspring.

Dictyostelium discoideum, a type of slime mold in soil, eats bacteria. Some wild forms of this species essentially farm the microbes, passing them along in spore cases that give the next generation of amoebas the beginnings of a fine local patch of prey. Tests find that the trick to keeping the parental immune system from killing this starter crop of bacteria is a surge of proteins called lectins, researchers say in the July 27 Science.More.

Slime molds are known for a sophistication that approaches that of an insect colony:

Apparent intelligence can exist without a brain. Consider Dictyostelium discoides, one of the 900 species known as slime mold. Don’t let the disgusting name deter you; the example is informative. Faced with a food shortage, thousands of brainless, one-celled amoebas living underground hurry to form a single blob. The blob lengthens to about 1/25 of an inch (or one millimeter) and resembles a tiny slug. Then the “slug” crawls toward light, like a worm, and thus arrives at the soil surface.

Different amoebas play different roles inside the blob/slug. Some enable it to move. One percent behave like police: they crawl around looking for infectious bacteria. If they find one, they ingest it and leave the blob. They die, but the slug survives.

Once above ground, the slug reorganizes itself into something more like a fungus. – Denyse O’Leary, Sublime Mold: Does Intelligence Always Reside in the Brain? Maybe Not! Salvo 24, 2013

And all this just somehow evolved by trial and error, did it? We used to have this evolution conundrum with insect colonies; now amoebas and bacteria. Researchers can spare themselves trouble by not trying to cobble together a proposed explanation whose only merit is that it is Darwinian.

See also: Sophisticated bacterial communications pose stark question re evolution. Yes, it is “interesting” that bacteria use such a sophisticated strategy to keep feeding a colony. That raises a question: If microbial mats have been around for three and a half billion years, did they not encounter some of the same basic physical problems as described in this research?

If the mats did not have this “fairly sophisticated strategy” then, what strategy were they using? If they did have it, how did they just somehow happen to evolve a sophisticated strategy by natural selection acting on random mutations (Darwinism) within a specific, limited time frame?


Worms survive Siberian permafrost for 42,000 years The worms that survived the shuttle blowup were nematodes too. Whatever the case turns out to be re the Moon, we should not underestimate life forms’ ability to find ways to somehow survive.

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