Slimy Mold the Ideal Evolutionary Subject

Predictions on what alien life could look like are limited: movie aliens are typically humanoid with various outer "textures". An understanding of the evolution of life forms on other planets can be gained by examining slimy mold in forests.

Amoebas living in slime for the most part are single-celled creatures, but they do collect together forming complex bodies that crawl. Other groups pulsate. New work has identified signals that make the little creatures congregate together.

Researchers put Phusarum polycephalum (many-headed slime mold) in a maze, then placed two pieces of food further inside the twisting corridors. The "thing" tested the paths with tendrils, backing away when it reached a dead end. Four hours later it located and devoured the food.

A map of Spain was laid out and food was placed on large cities with slime mold being released to do its work. A network of tentacles spread out over the map almost exactly the same as the highway system of Spain.

Slime mould species have been around for a billion years. They "arrived" well before plants and animals. Apparently food is easier to find in a group situation. Particular amoebas have different functions within the group. Some will sacrifice themselves for the good of the group. They will devour infectious bacteria then fall away to die. Only relatives unite together. They know who the strangers are.
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