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The Social Amoebae: The Biology of Cellular Slime Molds

By: John Tyler Bonner

144 pages, line illus

Princeton University Press

Hardback | Feb 2009 | #178043 | ISBN-13: 9780691139395
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NHBS Price: £19.95 $24/€22 approx

About this book

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 labour; 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.

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

"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

"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


Preface vii Chapter 1: Introduction 1 Chapter 2: The Life Cycle 7 Chapter 3: Evolution 17 Chapter 4: Ecology 35 Chapter 5: Behavior of Amoebae and Cell Masses 43 Chapter 6: Morphogenesis 87 Chapter 7: Differentiation 95 Chapter 8: The Future 121 Bibliography 129 Index 141

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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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