Smart network solutions in an amoeboid organism

Biophys Chem. 2004 Jan 1;107(1):1-5. doi: 10.1016/S0301-4622(03)00189-3.


We present evidence that the giant amoeboid organism, the true slime mold, constructs a network appropriate for maximizing nutrient uptake. The body of the plasmodium of Physarum polycephalum contains a network of tubular elements by means of which nutrients and chemical signals circulate through the organism. When food pellets were presented at different points on the plasmodium it accumulated at each pellet with a few tubes connecting the plasmodial concentrations. The geometry of the network depended on the positions of the food sources. Statistical analysis showed that the network geometry met the multiple requirements of a smart network: short total length of tubes, close connections among all the branches (a small number of transit food-sites between any two food-sites) and tolerance of accidental disconnection of the tubes. These findings indicate that the plasmodium can achieve a better solution to the problem of network configuration than is provided by the shortest connection of Steiner's minimum tree.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Models, Biological
  • Physarum polycephalum / cytology
  • Physarum polycephalum / metabolism
  • Physarum polycephalum / physiology*