Slime mold can learn—and more breakthroughs

Strawberries have genes that ‘jump.’ Plus: the world’s most diverse collection of mammal milk.

Though slime molds lack brains and neurons, the single-celled organisms still may be capable of basic forms of learning and adaptation. In studies led by biologist Audrey Dussutour, one slime mold species, Physarum polycephalum, exhibited the ability to overcome its aversion to certain things—a behavior known as habituation. In a later study, the slime mold then seemed to remember what it had learned. —Catherine Zuckerman

After her baby was born last year, Calaya (below), a western lowland gorilla, allowed researchers to collect a small sample of her milk. Though sensitivity prevented her from providing further samples, contributions from other primates like her are part of a conservation effort at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, which maintains the world’s most diverse repository of mammal milk. The bank, which contains milk from more than 200 species, has two purposes, says biologist Mike Power. The samples help the zoo develop nutritious formulas for animals that must be hand-reared. They also shed light on the origins of Homo sapiens. “The data we get from gorilla milk,” he says, “help me understand how human milk has evolved.” —Catherine Zuckerman

Read more about the world's largest collection of animal milk.

Read This Next

To regrow forests, the U.S. needs many more 'seed hunters'
How Berlin’s club scene is weathering the pandemic
Why you shouldn’t panic over the Omicron variant

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet