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News Link • Biology, Botany and Zoology

Japan scientists hope slime holds intelligence key

• The RawStory.com
 

A brainless, primeval organism able to navigate a maze might help Japanese scientists devise the ideal transport network design. Not bad for a mono-cellular being that lives on rotting leaves.

Amoeboid yellow slime mold has been on Earth for thousands of years, living a distinctly un-hi-tech life, but, say scientists, it could provide the key to designing bio-computers capable of solving complex problems.

Toshiyuki Nakagaki, a professor at Future University Hakodate says the organism, which he cultivates in petri dishes, “organises” its cells to create the most direct root through a maze to a source of food.

He says the cells appear to have a kind of information-processing ability that allows them to “optimise” the route along which the mold grows to reach food while avoiding stresses — like light — that may damage them.

“Humans are not the only living things with information-processing abilities,” said Nakagaki in his laboratory in Hakodate on Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido.

“Simple creatures can solve certain kinds of difficult puzzles,” Nakagaki said. “If you want to spotlight the essence of life or intelligence, it’s easier to use these simple creatures.”

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