Latino Studies at New York University

Karen Alim

Postdoctoral Fellow
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Harvard University

November 5, 2013

Organization of fluid flow in the vein networks of the slime mold Physarum polycephalum

The mechanisms enabling behaviors in animals and especially humans have emerged as an intense focus of modern biology. Slime molds are organisms without a nervous system and yet they show often-termed intelligent behaviors in the way they coordinate the growth of their network-like shape. Examination of the coordinated growth of slime molds enables comparisons among disparate branches of the tree of life, and may teach us what defines or controls behavior. An organism will only function as an integrated whole when signals and resources can be moved across a body. Networks appear critical to communication across a slime mold, but the mechanisms coordinating network growth and behaviors have remained obscure. Our research solves the problem by uncovering how flows and, thus, transport of resources are organized within the slime mold Physarum polycephalum.