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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: Even Slime Molds Make Mistakes
7 September 2010 7:01 pm
Just because an organism doesn’t have a brain doesn’t mean it can’t think. Researchers gave single-celled slime molds a “food test”: In the easy exam, the funguslike organisms had to decide between eating 2%, 6%, or 10% concentrations of oatmeal in inedible agar—a fairly clear distinction. In the hard exam, they had to choose between oatmeal concentrations of 6%, 8%, or 10%—a more subtle difference. Molds that chose faster were five times more likely to choose the worst possible option. But they didn’t always respond like humans do. When comfortable, the organisms made quick decisions if the choice was easy and took their time if it was hard. But when the team starved the molds or shined harsh light on them, they chose faster when the choice was hard and slower when it was easy. This counterintuitive behavior may be related to risk, the researchers will report online tomorrow in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. In the hard exam, the worst possible option (6%) wasn’t so bad, but in the easy exam, the worst option (2%) was dismal. So hungry molds had a lot to lose if they chose wrong.
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