This slime mold can solve puzzles, and make decisions even if it doesn’t have a brain. How the hell? The Physarum polycephalum has scientists befuddled. This little organism does not have a brain or a nervous system, and yet it is able to thrive undisturbed in the environment for years. In addition, it’s able to do things that requires thinking, even with the lack of the organs needed for the action:
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“I think it’s the same kind of revolution that occurred when people realized that plants could communicate with each other,” says biologist Audrey Dussutour of the French National Center for Scientific Research.
“Even these tiny little microbes can learn. It gives you a bit of humility.”
P. polycephalum – adorably nicknamed “The Blob” by Dussutour – isn’t exactly rare. It can be found in dark, humid, cool environments like the leaf litter on a forest floor. It’s also really peculiar; although we call it a ‘mold’, it is not actually fungus. Nor is it animal or plant, but a member of the protist kingdom – a sort of catch-all group for anything that can’t be neatly categorized in the other three kingdoms.
It starts its life as many individual cells, each with a single nucleus. Then, they merge to form theplasmodium, the vegetative life stage in which the organism feeds and grows.
In this form, fanning out in veins to search for food and explore its environment, it’s still a single cell, but containing millions or even billions of nuclei swimming in the cytoplasmic fluid confined within the bright-yellow membrane.
To learn more about this unique and intriguing little fella, check out ScienceAlert’s full piece here!
Image credit: (Audrey Dussutour/CNRS)