‘Living beach ball’ is giant single-cell life-form!

Amazing science news of the day:  this amazing organism — Syringammina fragilissima — has been determined to be a gargantuan relative of the foraminiferans.  It is a single celled organism, encased in a fragile ball of sand-tubes!

There are still many mysteries inherent in how a single-celled form of life can demonstrate such creative, self-organizing properties.  As the article from New Scientist explains, we know almost nothing about it yet.  We don’t know how it eats, how it excretes waste, or how it reproduces.  The Syringammina appears to go through periods of building and resting and — like foraminifera — it secretes a form of glue, and gathers sediments to itself, to create the container-shelter.   Forams actually build structures with distinct/predictable shapes using different component grains, depending on their species!  I find the parallels strikingly similar (only on a much larger scale) with the foraminifera research of Dr. Sam Bowser, whose under-ice diving, foram-gathering and field-research camp I was privileged to observe first-hand at New Harbor, Antarctica.  Note:  Bowser’s extensive research on forams, including underwater footage shot at the New Harbor field camp, was featured in Werner Herzog’s recent movie Encounters at the End of the World (for anyone who wants to learn more about the odd world of forams).

I predict it’s just a matter of time until they figure out how to write poetry…

Zoologger: ‘Living beach ball’ is giant single cell – life – 03 February 2010 – New Scientist.

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