Dictyostelium discoideum –or dicty, for short -is a very social amoeba that spends most of its life as a solitary hunter in forest soil, eating bacteria and dividing around every four hours. When food runs out, dicty and tens of thousands of its closest friends get together, form a worm-like mobile multicellular slug, and move on to colonize new territory.
The slug can move faster and farther than any individual amoeba could. The cells within the slug have differing functions; some altruistically die to form a spore-releasing stalk and others act as sentinels, sweeping from front to back and picking up toxins before being shed from the rear. A brilliant student, Debra A. Brock, working in Joan E. Strassmann and David C. Queller’s lab at Rice University in Houston Texas recently discovered that some dicty pack a self-replicating lunch of edible bacteria before migrating. These she calls “farmer” amoeba and carrying food is a major advantage if edible bacteria are aren’t available at the new location.
Read more about farming dicty in Microbe Magazine.
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