29 January 2013

Introducing, the Amazing Dictyostelid!

So, this week I read an awesome, stimulating book "Intelligence in Nature" by Jeremy Narby. All about the capacity of intelligence among animals and other life and what 'intelligence' actually is.

In the English language there are a few terms for mental capacity. Intelligence is used most commonly, followed by smart or smartness. Intelligence has different definitions - Webster says that intelligence is "the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new and trying situations, the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one's environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria" So, I assess, that intelligence is the capacity to store information for future use; use the information to analyze and decide; and to make self beneficial changes in the environment. This is only one version of a definition for a word, of course. The English word 'intelligence', comes from the Latin word 'intellegere' (to understand.) Intelligence has evolved to mean far more than understanding. Now its the ability to reason and think abstractedly and even complex computation (and a list of other attributes depending upon belief and specialities and opinion) Smart on the other hand, is more related to the ability to assess and decide.

I learned that the Japanese version of intelligence is 'chi-sei' meaning simply 'to know'. This is a far easier definition to work with, I think. It implies knowledge or information storage and the ability to use it. I'm getting to slime mold, I promise. So, though many disagree on the qualifications for intelligence, far fewer argue that intelligence exists without a brain.

Dictyostelium does not have a brain. It is so simply, or not so simply, a combination of single cells working together as one entity. This entity can move and maneuver and eat. The cells only become 'slime mold' when triggered by starvation as a survival (common good) solution to the problem. The cells in distress begin to release Cyclic adenosine mosophosphate (cAMP) which triggers other cells to either do the same (to increase the signal) or to join the cells already doing so. Eventually thousands do so and turn into a 'slug' that can begin moving and collecting food.

Presumably as the result of enough connective cells and abundant food, the 'slug' turns into a 'fruiting body' as part of its life stage. It elevates itself on a cellulose base and holds up a 'pod' that upon fruiting will burst open, releasing newly formed single cells, to go about the world with their little single celled goals.

Check out this amazing video!!



  1. Hi KAS, I remember blogging when I discovered these a couple of years ago - they are quite fascinating, I'd agree.

    Alan Rayner is a mycologist I have corresponded with, and he uses these examples to illustrate to people that adaptive / emergent behaviour that most would see as "Darwinian" evolution is something much more creative than simple competitive survival.

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I've Thought...

03.09 ~ I am but human, in my thoughts and desires- in my inconsistencies. It makes my opposing decisions no less real, no less quantitative... confusion is but the eye of truth, beckoning reason. ~ 03.12 ~ Time. It's existence is action progression, regression, reflection and projection. What in time is solidified and carried to another time is my choice. In one choice you lose all others; as an atom appreciates when the observer decides. It's a blue ocean of intrigue and a wave of contentment- that I am lost in, whilst, carried by. ~ 03.23 ~ That we are all part of one pulsing energy of life.. ~ 3.28 ~ There is no greater power, than the power of words. In speech we pass each other in halls, ride in elevators and embark in the great adventure that are words - with all of their beauty and intrigue. There are no wrong words spoken, only wrong interpretations and implications. Honest words are organic, true and expressions of what we are; existing autonomously and innocently, regardless of what others may think of them. 3.30 ~ That, the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. It certainly doesn't help being in the company of those who have succeeded in accumulating far more knowledge than I. Is the differentiation between intelligence and knowledge simply the accumulation verses the ability to learn/understand? Or, are the two interchangeable. I feel as though time is passing faster than my ability to accumulate... do other people share this conundrum, I wonder... 4.02 ~ That, "It is what it is" isn't exactly accurate. "It is what I make it" is more so... 4.08 ~ That, "it's not time that matters... it's that mattering is what makes time." 4.12 ~ I watch and wonder... think and ponder... about it. Should I find that I have analyzed to much, to little; or that the quandary was all for not, I'll not know till the applicable time has passed.I hereby instill time as my guide, innocently and fully without disposition and without angst. (4.17) ~ Though random, we should not ignore paths crossed. Just as, we should not entirely exclude emotion from our conclusions. (4.26) ~ That I dispise my lack of control over my own intentions and wonder why I am so weak in this regard. (4.27) ~ That I have opened doors, I wished to open, while simultaniously putting other doors at risk of closing. It's not with resistance I contemplate, it's with anxiety. (4.28) That, I should take a break. Time to simply be, for a bit. (5.01) Its hunger drives decent of rational, a battle of wit and need. Like rain pouring down, wisped by winds, settled by gravity, I’m drawn to it ~ KAS