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Friday, January 21, 2011

Worlds Most Tiniest Farmer (Dictyostelium discoideum )

A Tiniest Amoeba Which Helps Former Grow Plants 
                   A 2011 report in Nature published findings that demonstrated a "primitive farming behaviour" in D. discoideum colonies. Described as a "symbiosis" between D. discoideum and bacterial prey, approximately one third of wild-collected D. discoideum colonies engaged in the "husbandry" of the bacteria when the bacteria were included within the slime mold fruiting bodies. The incorporation of the bacteria into the fruiting bodies allows the "seeding" of the food source at the location of the spore dispersal, which is particularly valuable if the new location is low in food resources. Colonies produced from the "farming" spores typically also show the same behavior when sporulating; colonies. This incorporation has a cost associated with it: those colonies that do not consume all of the prey bacteria produce smaller spores that cannot disperse as widely. Additionally, there is much less benefit for bacteria-containing spores that land in a food-rich region. This balance of the costs and benefits of the behavior may contribute to the fact that a minority of D. discoideum colonies engage in this practice.