ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Amoeba agriculture

Some slime molds transport and farm the bacteria they eat

Megan Scudellari
Humans, ants and numerous other species farm their food, but no microoganism has been shown to participate in agriculture, until now. For the first time, researchers have discovered that a species of social amoeba -- a slime mold -- carries, seeds, and harvests a crop of their bacterial diet, researchers report in this week's issue of linkurl:Nature.;http://www.nature.com/nature/index.html
D. discoideum fruiting bodies containing spores and bacteria. Credit: Scott Solomon
"This is an eye-opener," said linkurl:Jacobus Boomsma,;http://www.zi.ku.dk/popecol/webbio/jboomsma.htm an evolutionary biologist at the University of Copenhagen who studies insect farming societies and was not involved in the research. "I would never have imagined that things as simple as slime molds could do a primitive version of farming."When soil-dwelling Dictyostelium discoideum amoebas run out of nearby bacteria to eat, the social organisms group together into slugs -- conglomerations of 100,000 individuals -- and inch along to a new location. There, they produce...
D. discoideumD. discoideum
Credit: Owen Gilbert
Nature.Brock, D.A., et al., "Primitive agriculture in a social amoeba," Nature, 496: 393-6, 2011. doi:10.1038/nature09668.



Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?
ADVERTISEMENT