The Social Amoebae: The Biology of Cellular Slime Molds

Princeton University Press
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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.

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About 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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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Dec 29, 2008
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Pages
152
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ISBN
9781400833283
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / Life Sciences / Biology
Science / Life Sciences / Developmental Biology
Science / Life Sciences / Evolution
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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John Tyler Bonner, one of our most distinguished and creative biologists, here offers a completely new perspective on the role of size in biology. In his hallmark friendly style, he explores the universal impact of being the right size. By examining stories ranging from Alice in Wonderland to Gulliver's Travels, he shows that humans have always been fascinated by things big and small. Why then does size always reside on the fringes of science and never on the center stage? Why do biologists and others ponder size only when studying something else--running speed, life span, or metabolism?

Why Size Matters, a pioneering book of big ideas in a compact size, gives size its due by presenting a profound yet lucid overview of what we know about its role in the living world. Bonner argues that size really does matter--that it is the supreme and universal determinant of what any organism can be and do. For example, because tiny creatures are subject primarily to forces of cohesion and larger beasts to gravity, a fly can easily walk up a wall, something we humans cannot even begin to imagine doing.

Bonner introduces us to size through the giants and dwarfs of human, animal, and plant history and then explores questions including the physics of size as it affects biology, the evolution of size over geological time, and the role of size in the function and longevity of living things.

As this elegantly written book shows, size affects life in its every aspect. It is a universal frame from which nothing escapes.

A brilliant, cutting-edge exploration of the dramatic rise of allergic and autoimmune diseases and the controversial, potentially groundbreaking therapies that scientists are developing to correct these disorders

Whether it is asthma, food or pollen allergies, type-1 diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, or Crohn’s disease, everyone knows someone who suffers from an allergic or autoimmune disorder. And if it appears that the prevalence of these maladies has increased recently, that’s because it has—to levels never before seen in human history. These days no fewer than one in five—and likely more—Americans suffers from one of these ailments. We seem newly, and bafflingly, vulnerable to immune system malfunction. Why? Science writer Moises Velasquez-Manoff explains the latest thinking about this problem and explores the remarkable new treatments in the works.

In the past 150 years, improved sanitation, water treatment, and the advent of vaccines and antibiotics have saved countless lives, nearly eradicating diseases that had plagued humanity for millennia. But now, a growing body of evidence suggests that the very steps we took to combat infections also eliminated organisms that kept our bodies in balance. The idea that we have systematically cleaned ourselves to illness challenges deeply entrenched notions about the value of societal hygiene and the harmful nature of microbes. Yet scientists investigating the rampant immune dysfunction in the developed world have inevitably arrived at this conclusion. To address this global “epidemic of absence,” they must restore the human ecosystem.

This groundbreaking book explores the promising but controversial “worm therapy”—deliberate infection with parasitic worms—in development to treat autoimmune disease. It explains why farmers’ children so rarely get hay fever, why allergy is less prevalent in former Eastern Bloc countries, and how one cancer-causing bacterium may be good for us. It probes the link between autism and a dysfunctional immune system. It investigates the newly apparent fetal origins of allergic disease—that a mother’s inflammatory response imprints on her unborn child, tipping the scales toward allergy. In the future, preventive treatment—something as simple as a probiotic—will necessarily begin before birth.

An Epidemic of Absence asks what will happen in developing countries, which, as they become more affluent, have already seen an uptick in allergic disease: Will India end up more allergic than Europe? Velasquez-Manoff also details a controversial underground movement that has coalesced around the treatment of immune-mediated disorders with parasites. Against much of his better judgment, he joins these do-it-yourselfers and reports his surprising results.

An Epidemic of Absence considers the critical immune stimuli we inadvertently lost as we modernized, and the modern ills we may be able to correct by restoring them. At stake is nothing less than our health, and that of our loved ones. Researchers, meanwhile, have the good fortune of living through a paradigm shift, one of those occasional moments in the progress of science when a radically new way of thinking emerges, shakes things up, and suggests new avenues of treatment. You’ll discover that you’re not you at all, but a bustling collection of organisms, an ecosystem whose preservation and integrity require the utmost attention and care.
John Tyler Bonner, a major participant in the development of biology as an experimental science, is the author not only of important monographs but also of a wonderfully readable book, Life Cycles, which is both a personal memoir and a profound commentary on the central themes of biology. This volume of essays presents new material that extends the concepts from Life Cycles and his other writings. Its originality lies in comparing key basic biological processes at different levels, from molecular interactions through multicellular development to behavior and social interactions. The first chapter in the book discusses self-organization and natural selection; the second, competition and natural selection; and the third, gene accumulation and gene silencing. The fourth chapter examines the division of labor in organisms at all levels: within the organelles of a cell, within groups of cells in the guise of differentiation, within groups of individuals in an animal society, and within our culturally determined human societies. The work closes with a charming personal history of sixty years of changes in the field of biology, including the transformation in the ways that research work is funded.

Originally published in 1996.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

The enormous recent success of molecular developmental biology has yielded a vast amount of new information on the details of development. So much so that we risk losing sight of the underlying principles that apply to all development. To cut through this thicket, John Tyler Bonner ponders a moment in evolution when development was at its most basic--the moment when signaling between cells began. Although multicellularity arose numerous times, most of those events happened many millions of years ago. Many of the details of development that we see today, even in simple organisms, accrued over a long evolutionary timeline, and the initial events are obscured. The relatively uncomplicated and easy-to-grow cellular slime molds offer a unique opportunity to analyze development at a primitive stage and perhaps gain insight into how early multicellular development might have started.

Through slime molds, Bonner seeks a picture of the first elements of communication between cells. He asks what we have learned by looking at their developmental biology, including recent advances in our molecular understanding of the process. He then asks what is the most elementary way that polarity and pattern formation can be achieved. To find the answer, he uses models, including mathematical ones, to generate insights into how cell-to-cell cooperation might have originated. Students and scholars in the blossoming field of the evolution of development, as well as evolutionary biologists generally, will be interested in what Bonner has to say about the origins of multicellular development--and thus of the astounding biological complexity we now observe--and how best to study it.

John Tyler Bonner, one of our most distinguished and creative biologists, here offers a completely new perspective on the role of size in biology. In his hallmark friendly style, he explores the universal impact of being the right size. By examining stories ranging from Alice in Wonderland to Gulliver's Travels, he shows that humans have always been fascinated by things big and small. Why then does size always reside on the fringes of science and never on the center stage? Why do biologists and others ponder size only when studying something else--running speed, life span, or metabolism?

Why Size Matters, a pioneering book of big ideas in a compact size, gives size its due by presenting a profound yet lucid overview of what we know about its role in the living world. Bonner argues that size really does matter--that it is the supreme and universal determinant of what any organism can be and do. For example, because tiny creatures are subject primarily to forces of cohesion and larger beasts to gravity, a fly can easily walk up a wall, something we humans cannot even begin to imagine doing.

Bonner introduces us to size through the giants and dwarfs of human, animal, and plant history and then explores questions including the physics of size as it affects biology, the evolution of size over geological time, and the role of size in the function and longevity of living things.

As this elegantly written book shows, size affects life in its every aspect. It is a universal frame from which nothing escapes.

John Tyler Bonner, a major participant in the development of biology as an experimental science, is the author not only of important monographs but also of a wonderfully readable book, Life Cycles, which is both a personal memoir and a profound commentary on the central themes of biology. This volume of essays presents new material that extends the concepts from Life Cycles and his other writings. Its originality lies in comparing key basic biological processes at different levels, from molecular interactions through multicellular development to behavior and social interactions. The first chapter in the book discusses self-organization and natural selection; the second, competition and natural selection; and the third, gene accumulation and gene silencing. The fourth chapter examines the division of labor in organisms at all levels: within the organelles of a cell, within groups of cells in the guise of differentiation, within groups of individuals in an animal society, and within our culturally determined human societies. The work closes with a charming personal history of sixty years of changes in the field of biology, including the transformation in the ways that research work is funded.

Originally published in 1996.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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