The Aggregation of Slime Mold Amoebae

  • Arthur T. Winfree
Part of the Interdisciplinary Applied Mathematics book series (IAM, volume 12)


Two kinds of slime mold play central roles in this book. Later on we will meet the “true” slime mold (Myxomycetes), an acellular jelly remarkable for the regularity and synchrony of mitosis in its many nuclei. Topologically, the true slime mold is one single monstrous cell. But in the present chapter, our concern is with the cellular slime molds (Acrasiales), the best studied of which is Dictyostelium discoideum (Bonner, 1967; Gerisch, 1968). This creature is more conventional in its cellular structure but is equally astonishing topologically in that its cells wander independently, like the individual workers of an ant colony. Like the ant hive, Dictyostelium is a “superorganism,” a genetically homogeneous being composed of autonomous individuals, nevertheless organized altruistically for the collective good. Some think it represents an early stage in the evolution of multicellular organisms. The life cycle runs as follows.


Excitable Medium Malonic Acid Concentric Ring Spiral Wave Slime Mold 
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  1. 2.
    By “smaller” I mean the total amount released. The cells might be more concerned about the peak rate of release.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Although Keller and Segel’s original interpretation of slime mold aggregation seems incorrect for Dictyostelium, practically the same equations seem to account nicely for the moving bands of chemotactic bacteria (Keller and Segel, 1971a, b). This is not at all an unusual pattern of discovery. For example, Newton’s equilibrium theory of the tides is utterly mistaken for seawater, but it served beautifully for tides in the atmosphere when they were discovered.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arthur T. Winfree
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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