This is both fascinating and terrifying news: an organism that can break down into self-sufficient parts only to re-constitute itself as a massive Blob-like mega-entity. A prime candidate, evolution-wise, to usurp us genetically-varied individualists:
Scientists say the discovery is much more than a mere curiosity, because the colony consists of what are known as social amoebas. Only an apparent oxymoron, social amoebas are able to gather in organized groups and behave cooperatively, some even committing suicide to help fellow amoebas reproduce. The discovery of such a huge colony of genetically identical amoebas provides insight into how such cooperation and sociality might have evolved and may help to explain why microbes are being found to show social behaviors more often than was expected.
“It is of significant scientific interest,” said Kevin Foster, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University who was not involved with the study. Though amoebas would seem unlikely to coordinate interactions with one another over much more than microscopic distances, the discovery of such a massive clonal colony, he said, “raises the possibility that cells might evolve to organize on much larger spatial scales.” (nytimes.com)
Via Angel Station