We tend to think of microbes as ‘simple’ organisms that are not capable of the ‘complex’ behaviour that we see in animals like ourselves. But this assumption more often stems from our own ignorance of other life-forms than it reflects reality. In this paper, we show how a supposedly-simple amoeba engages in complex social behaviour that varies depending on fine-grained information about who it is interacting with. Using a novel combination of theoretical and empirical techniques, we have managed to enter into the amoeba’s world and catch it performing behaviour that is often considered to require animal-like intelligence.
Philip Madgwick, third year SWBio DTP student
Paper: ‘Strategic investment explains patterns of cooperation and cheating in a microbe‘ by PG Madgwick, B Stewart, LJ Belcher, CRL Thompson and JB Wolf in Proceedings of the National Academic of Sciences of the United States of America.