Episode Summary

Slime molds can learn to get used to salt and hold on to that memory even after a period of dormancy!

Microbe of the episode

Microbe of the episode: Nocardia transvalensis

News discussed

Jesse's takeaways

Slime mold Physarum polycephalum has many surprisingly intelligent abilities, despite being only a single cell. Studying how these abilities work in the cell can teach us new ways that life can do things. The ability of interest here is habituation, or learning not to avoid a chemical that seems unpleasant to the cell but is not necessarily harmful, especially with a food reward.

The slime mold can become habituated to salt, in this case, learning to tolerate it enough to pass through a gradient of increasing concentration to get to some food as quickly as it crosses the same distance with no salt present. The scientists here learned that the cell takes up sodium into itself as it habituates, and holds onto both sodium and its memory through a period of hibernation.

Journal Paper

Boussard A., Delescluse J., PĂ©rez-Escudero A., Dussutour A. 2019. Memory inception and preservation in slime moulds: the quest for a common mechanism. Phil Trans R Soc B 374:20180368.

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