Found in soils worldwide, slime molds such as Dictyostelium discoideum are perhaps best known by their behaviors in the presence or absence of food. When food is plentiful, the social amoeba behave as individuals, but when food is scarce, they come together to form multicellular “fruiting bodies” that look like a flower bud atop a single stalk or foot composed of a fifth of the amoebae that have sacrificed themselves for the group.
D. purpureum. (Photo by Chandra Jack, Rice University)
Studying social amoebae allow researchers to learn more multicellularity because they can exist in both single-cell and multicellular states. From a bioremediation perspective however, slime molds are important candidates in cleaning up sites contaminated with chemicals and radioactive materials.