Slime mold is master network engineer

Single-cell organism builds food-carrying tunnels in pattern similar to Tokyo rail system

6:43pm, January 21, 2010

Talented and dedicated engineers spent countless hours designing Japan’s rail system to be one of the world’s most efficient. Could have just asked a slime mold.

When presented with oat flakes arranged in the pattern of Japanese cities around Tokyo, brainless, single-celled slime molds construct networks of nutrient-channeling tubes that are strikingly similar to the layout of the Japanese rail system, researchers from Japan and England report January 22 in Science. A new model based on the simple rules of the slime mold’s behavior may lead to the design of more efficient, adaptable networks, the team contends.

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