Slime molds may be more intelligent than you think. At least that’s what scientists are discovering in labs at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. These single-celled, yellow blobs seen above don’t have brains or neural networks, yet they creepily crawl over decaying vegetation in search for food.
“This thing is literally jelly making smart decisions,” New Jersey Institute of Technology researcher Simon Garnier says in the video filmed and produced by bioGraphic.
Slime molds are known for their sluggish, congealing movement patterns. Just to observe a few centimeters of movement, the scientists have to record the slime molds for up to two days. If you place the organism in a nutrient-deprived environment, you’ll find that it grows little fingers that find food in a seemingly intentional manner. Experiments have shown slime molds navigating through mazes to reach a bounty of food, each of the extensions communicating with the rest of the organism.
Garnier and his research colleague Greg Weber want to find out how this simple organism is able to make complex decisions. Using time-lapse footage, they were able to see that the slime molds membrane inflates and deflates, oscillating about once per minute. At the 2:00-mark you can see the yellow membranous network wiggle and pulse. The group then uses a machine to poke the slime mold membrane and see if they can manipulate its direction.
These clever slime molds really make you wonder “what we mean by intelligence,” Garnier says.
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