When you walk in the woods in warm weather, you may see something on the ground that looks like a dog vomited. It is actually a smart, living organism. It is a form of life that feeds on dead grass and/or leaves. The scientific name for this organism is Dictyostelium discoideum and its genetic blueprint has been worked out, and it is highly studied.

Slime mold can join with other specimens and become a giant sized organism, although most get no larger than a human hand. It moves very slowly covering the ground at a rate of about an inch every two and one half hours. If food runs low it can find sunlight and transform itself into a spore factory dispersing cells on the wind for better feeding grounds.

In 2000, Japanese researchers found that the slime mold can navigate a maze. They chopped up a slime mold and put it in various corners of a plastic maze with only two openings and left food in the openings. Instead of forming a blob that spread throughout the maze, the slime mold formed a single tube which stretched from one opening to the other spanning the shortest point between two openings.

The Japanese researchers described what had happened as “clever and cunning”, but the question is how can an organism with no central nervous system do such a thing? No answer has yet been given to this amazing discovery, but it is clear that something is designed into the slime mold’s sensory apparatus that allows this to be done. It is clearly a design feature built into the instinctive behavior of the organism, not something the mold is thinking through.

Source: New Scientist, June 18, 2005, page 54.


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