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Old 05-29-2009, 09:58 PM   #1 (permalink)
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That's not a grape, that's an amoeba...

... and it might change a lot of preconceptions!
Quote:
Incredibly weird, inch-wide single-celled creatures discovered rolling across the sea floor


It’s a single cell, it’s the size of a grape, and it propels itself across the ocean floor: Behold the Bahamian Gromia — one of the strangest beasts yet discovered in the briny deep.

Gromia sphaerica, as the organisms are known, are superbig amoebas, growing up to 1.5 inches in diameter. They were first discovered in 2000 in the Arabian Sea, and have since been found in various locations around the world. Then last year a team of biologists were diving near Little San Salvador Island in the Bahamas, when they discovered a new form of Gromia — the “Bahamian” Gromia, as they’re calling it.

The weird thing is, the Bahamanian Gromia were all found at the end of a trail — as if they’d been somehow pushed or dragged along the seafloor. This didn’t make sense, because the currents at that depth either weren’t strong enough or were irregular, so they wouldn’t push the Gromia in single, uniform paths, the way the trails lay. That left only one possibility: Somehow, these wee blobs are propelling themselves across the ocean floor, at a pace so slow it cannot be readily observed. In a paper published a recent issue of Current Biology — “Giant Deep-Sea Protist Produces Bilaterian-like Traces” (PDF here)— the scientists argue this is precisely what’s happening.

As they said in a press release:
Quote:
“We watched the video over and over,” Johnsen said. The trails couldn’t be the result of currents because they went in several directions at the same spot, and sometimes they even changed course. And they weren’t the result of rolling downhill. In fact, one trail was found that went down into a small depression and came back up the other side.

“We argued about it forever,” Johnsen said. “These things can’t possibly be moving!” But they are, at a rate too slow to be captured on the sub’s video. Johnsen guesses they move maybe an inch a day or less.
Here’s the even crazier thing: If these guys are right, this discovery could completely upend our ideas about the “Cambrian explosion.”

Remember those tracks the Bahamian Gromia left? They’re found in the pre-Cambrian fossil record. For years scientists assumed that only organisms with complex body plans that are symmetrical down the middle — “bilateria,” as they’re called — could possibly move in a fashion that would leave such trails. Thus, biologists have argued that bilateria were around before the Cambrian explosion, which sort of primed the pump for that crazily rapid diversification of bilateria into all the major animal groups we have today. But now it looks as though all those pre-Cambrian seabed trails could have been left by rolling, grape-sized ameobas. Maybe — who knows? — the Cambrian explosion happened even more psychotically quickly than we think. Maybe bilateria weren’t kicking around for millions of years later than we suspect.

The Rolling Grape That Rocked The Fossil Record. As I’ve said before, you can’t make this stuff up, and thankfully you don’t need to.

collision detection: Incredibly weird, inch-wide single-celled creatures discovered rolling across the sea floor

First off, I really hope this never ends up in my fruit salad. Second, this might have a lot to say about our understanding of the evolutionary history of our planet. This is all very preliminary, of course, but the implications of verifying this are considerable.

The Cambrian explosion is that wonderful moment in our history when life went from bacteria and algae through a massive diversification to all sorts of crazy organisms, the descendants of some exist even today. IIRC, it was the largest phase of diversification in our history. After abiogenesis, it's one of the most important parts of evolution on Earth. Every time we discover a new part of the puzzle, we get one step closer to understanding where we came from.

Very cool grape.
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Old 05-29-2009, 10:02 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I have a strange desire to eat one. I wonder how they taste. What sort of texture would a giant single-celled organism have?

This is a development I will be watching closely.
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Old 05-29-2009, 10:08 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I'm not sure about the taste. I'm sure I've ingested plenty of protists in my life, but they were all overpowered by the taste of food.

Also, I keep thinking, "That's no amoeba.... it's a space station."
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Old 07-26-2009, 03:17 PM   #4 (permalink)
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i need to visit this section of the forum more often.

bump for sheer awesomeness.
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Then they came for me And there was no one left to speak out for me.
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Old 07-29-2009, 03:17 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I read about this the other day. Simply fascinating, I never knew a cell could be so large.
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Old 07-29-2009, 06:40 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Are eggs single cells before they start reproducing?
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Old 07-29-2009, 08:46 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Yes, twisted.
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Old 08-14-2009, 08:42 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Again Bump for awesomeness.

Did anyone else think this?

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Old 08-14-2009, 10:17 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Yeah, wow. Fascinating!
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Old 08-15-2009, 08:05 AM   #10 (permalink)
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If one were to eat it, would it be considered meat?
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Old 08-15-2009, 09:54 AM   #11 (permalink)
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I don't think it fits in any of the basic food groups.
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