1. Myxamoebae

I am just a solitary unicellular amoeba, a nucleus surrounded by protoplasm. Dictyostelium discoideum is my name, but I am more commonly known as a slime mould.

I live in cultivated soil as well as in the sticky humus layers of woodland soils where I feed on decaying plant matter. I inhabit the brown and rotten-smelling layers of detritus on the forest floor, where I have my important place in its moist ecology. I maintain the natural balance of bacteria and other micro-organisms in our small habitat.

As just a single cell, there isn't a lot I can do. I am not flagellated, I can neither fly nor swim. I can sense the bacteria I need to eat, and I can engulf them for digestion. To complete my lifecycle, however, many of us must act in concert.

Hear the sound of slime mould DNA.

Some researchers (led by Matt Droter of Utah State University's Get Away Special Laboratory) had big plans for we Dictyostelium. They have sent us into space! To disrupt our normal patterns of life cycles, they sealed us in a canister and sent us up on board the Space Shuttle Endeavor, to see how we fared in micro-gravity, orbiting the Earth.

2. Aggregation

curly rule



Helen Whitehead

Part of this work was submitted as the Dissertation for the MA in Writing

Nottingham Trent University

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Last amended on 2nd September 1998 / copyright H. M. Whitehead