Slimey Memories

Slime mold.

Is slime for brains so bad?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science

Organisms with brains can remember important things. Where to get food, how to build shelter, where I left my car keys . . . But what about organisms WITHOUT brains? 

Enter Mirna Kramar and Karen Alim of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization. They wondered if single-celled, brainless SLIME mold could remember where to find food. 

These half-inch long organisms are made up entirely of interconnected TUBES! Think squishy, hollow tree branches. After placing a sugar mixture nearby, researchers observed the slime mold for FIVE HOURS. 

Results? As the slime mold stretches towards food, the tubes CLOSEST to the food expand. The mold uses the tube size like a map to remember where the food was!

These findings help explain how simple organisms thrive in complex environments. When food is hard to find, having a memory of where your last meal came from could mean life or death! 

Or in a human’s case – – second helpings and dessert!!

Reference: Kramar, M., & Alim, K. (2021). Encoding memory in tube diameter hierarchy of living flow network. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(10).