We know a little more about the « blob », this single-celled organism capable of learning

Last April, CNRS researchers told us that the “blob”, a living being that is neither an animal, nor a plant, nor a fungus, is capable of learning from its experiences. These same researchers are now telling us more about this single-celled organism.

 » This is the first time that a single-celled organism has been proven to be capable of learning “, declared Romain Boisseau (researcher in biology) last April about the “blob” (or Physarum polycephalum of its real name), a creature which lives in the undergrowth of temperate regions and has been present on Earth for approximately 500 million years. years before man.  » This proves that learning does not necessarily require a nervous system (neurons, brain) added Audrey Dussutour, CNRS researcher (National Center for Scientific Research) at the University of Toulouse III Paul Sabatier.

These same researchers have taken research on this strange creature a little further by now proving that in addition to being able to learn, it can transmit its learning to a fellow creature by merging with it, as we can read in a press release. of the CNRS.

In early experiments, researchers taught blobs to bypass bitter but harmless substances to reach food. Initially reluctant, they ended up going through these substances much faster after several days, after “understanding” that these substances were harmless.

In this new experiment, the researchers taught more than 2,000 blobs that salt was harmless – the (experienced) blobs had to cross a salt-covered bridge to reach their food. During this time, 2,000 blobs had to cross a bridge devoid of any substance (“naive” blobs). At the end of this learning, the researchers formed pairs of « experienced » blobs, pairs of « naive » blobs and mixed pairs that merged at the level of their contact zone.

To their surprise, when the merged blobs had to cross a salt-covered bridge, they did so just as fast as the experienced blobs, and significantly faster than the naive blobs. As if the learning and knowledge of the harmlessness of salt had been shared.

The experiment was repeated several times, in particular having separated the blobs after several hours.  » Only the naive blobs who had remained in contact for three hours with an experienced blob ignored the salt, the others showing a strong aversion “, writes the CNRS. By observing the fusion under the microscope, the researchers discovered the formation of a vein between the blobs at the very location of the fusion. This required three hours to establish itself and it is undoubtedly through this that information circulates.

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