The Social Amoebae: The Biology of Cellular Slime Molds

The Social Amoebae: The Biology of Cellular Slime Molds

by John Tyler Bonner
     
 

Noted biologist and author John Tyler Bonner has experimented with cellular slime molds for more than sixty years, and he has done more than anyone else to raise these peculiar collections of amoebae from a minor biological curiosity to a major model organism--one that is widely studied for clues to the development and evolution of all living things. Now, five

Overview

Noted biologist and author John Tyler Bonner has experimented with cellular slime molds for more than sixty years, and he has done more than anyone else to raise these peculiar collections of amoebae from a minor biological curiosity to a major model organism--one that is widely studied for clues to the development and evolution of all living things. Now, five decades after he published his first pioneering book on cellular slime molds, Bonner steps back from the proliferating and increasingly specialized knowledge about the organism to provide a broad, nontechnical picture of its whole biology, including its evolution, sociobiology, ecology, behavior, and development. The Social Amoebae draws the big lessons from decades of research, and shows how slime molds fit into and illuminate biology as a whole.

Slime molds are very different from other organisms; they feed as individual amoebae before coming together to form a multicellular organism that has a remarkable ability to move and orient itself in its environment. Furthermore, these social amoebae display a sophisticated division of labor; within each organism, some cells form the stalk and others become the spores that will seed the next generation. In The Social Amoebae, Bonner examines all these parts together, giving a balanced, concise, and clear overview of slime mold biology, from molecules to cells to multicells, as he advances some unconventional and unexpected insights.

Editorial Reviews

Bioscience
The Social Amoebae is an enlightening and enjoyable read for the layperson and professional who would like to share in the biological insight and knowledge gained by John Tyler Bonner as a result of his lifelong relationship with cellular slime molds.
— Randy Wayne
Quarterly Review of Biology - James C. Cavender
Bonner does not get lost in abstract realms or in reams of facts. His book is very interesting and even exciting at times. He always stays grounded by returning readers to nature, to the forest soil where the slime molds are carrying out their various life-cycle activities. I was reluctant to put the book down once I started and was sad at the end because I wanted to read more.
Bioscience - Randy Wayne
The Social Amoebae is an enlightening and enjoyable read for the layperson and professional who would like to share in the biological insight and knowledge gained by John Tyler Bonner as a result of his lifelong relationship with cellular slime molds.
From the Publisher

"Bonner does not get lost in abstract realms or in reams of facts. His book is very interesting and even exciting at times. He always stays grounded by returning readers to nature, to the forest soil where the slime molds are carrying out their various life-cycle activities. I was reluctant to put the book down once I started and was sad at the end because I wanted to read more."--James C. Cavender, Quarterly Review of Biology

"The Social Amoebae is an enlightening and enjoyable read for the layperson and professional who would like to share in the biological insight and knowledge gained by John Tyler Bonner as a result of his lifelong relationship with cellular slime molds."--Randy Wayne, Bioscience

Quarterly Review of Biology
Bonner does not get lost in abstract realms or in reams of facts. His book is very interesting and even exciting at times. He always stays grounded by returning readers to nature, to the forest soil where the slime molds are carrying out their various life-cycle activities. I was reluctant to put the book down once I started and was sad at the end because I wanted to read more.
— James C. Cavender
Publishers Weekly
Most people think of amoebae (if they think of them at all) as "simple" single-celled organisms, but Princeton University biologist Bonner (Why Size Matters: From Bacteria to Blue Whales) examines the complex communities they form, known as slime molds, and the important role they play in soil ecology. In slime molds, individual amoebae coordinate their behavior (to move and reproduce) through chemical signals called acrasins. Held together in a slug by a thin layer of slime, the aggregated cells don't all behave alike: some individual cells, for instance, sacrifice themselves to help other cells produce spores, a kind of "altruistic" behavior that was once thought the exclusive purview of higher organisms. Bonner, one of the grand old men of microbial ecology, presents a relaxed overview of the social amoeba's biology, ecology and communication process, demonstrating an intimate grasp of the subject and an easy manner of explanation (including straightforward line-drawings) that avoid jargon. Discussing key research findings and still-unanswered questions, Bonner makes it clear that what may seem an arcane branch of biology entails important, fundamental questions of life's beginnings and evolution.
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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691139395
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
12/29/2008
Pages:
156
Sales rank:
1,269,173
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.80(d)

What People are saying about this

Brian Hall
Few scientists or authors can claim that the analyses and insights in their latest book are based on sixty years of original research, exploration, and childlike enthusiasm. We should be enormously grateful that John Tyler Bonner could make that claim about the career he has spent with cellular slime molds. His book is beautifully written, enlightening, fascinating, historical yet up-to-date, whimsical when appropriate, and informative throughout in its analysis of two of evolution's major themes—multicellular organization and sociality.
Brian Hall, coauthor of "Strickberger's Evolution"
Buss
A conversation with all those students working in labs on individual features of slime mold biology, The Social Amoebae might well induce readers to think more broadly about the organism.
Leo W. Buss, Yale University
Pauline Schaap
The Social Amoebae provides a rounded and complete picture of cellular slime mold biology for the interested lay person, but even researchers in the field will learn a lot. John Tyler Bonner ties the ecological context to developmental questions and connects modern molecular data to ingenious experiments performed more than forty years ago. Written in an easy, flowing, elegant style, the book is spiced up with delightful anecdotes, and I very much enjoyed reading it.
Pauline Schaap, University of Dundee

Meet the Author


John Tyler Bonner is professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University. He is the author of eighteen previous books, including, most recently, "Why Size Matters: From Bacteria to Blue Whales" (Princeton).

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