Scientists from the Southeast Norway University College recreated a Pac-Man game with protozoa.
The protozoa are single-celled microorganisms that have animal-like behaviors like motility and predation. However, they are also capable of photosynthesis, which confers them a very special place in the history of life on Earth.
On average, protozoa eat up to 1,000 bacteria per hour. They usually can be found in aquatic habitats and into the soil. Some of them are symbionts and parasites, and some are predators.
The researchers recreated a microscopic size of the Pac-Man game in which they introduced euglena, rotifers, and other protozoa.
The authors of the experiment explained that their choice is based on the fact that the Pac-Man game would draw the public’s attention.
Another argument would be that the set offered them a simulation model for the natural environment of a microorganism. The peat and moss often become obstacles to protozoa. However, the researcher’s maze bears no other resemblance to the two-dimensional game. There are no edges to hold the medium.
The purpose of the experiment was to observe the protozoa’ behavior when they had to navigate in complicated environments that resembled their natural habitat.
The only difference is that the labyrinth created by scientists involves pre-determined situations, such as obstacles, food sources, or the number of “siblings”, which can be adjusted to fit different scenarios. The experimental situations could involve feeding, orientation, communication, or predator avoidance.
The present study focused on the way rotifers responded to a new environment.
The author of the research collaborated with a filmmaker in order to capture the labyrinth on film. The team used neon lighting and a camera attached to the microscope.
The maze is just one millimeter wide, and it was filled with a fluid rich in nutrients that would help the protozoa to survive inside the artificial environment.
The rotifers, which are microscopic aquatic animals, were at first cautious around the maze and moved very slowly. After just one day, the microorganisms were moving fast inside the labyrinth. The orderly manner of their moves made the scientists believe that the rotifers used chemical signals that helped them in navigation.
The researchers plan to build even more complicated labyrinths in order to investigate what is the logic behind the microorganisms’ movements. The next experiment will involve digital tracing of the rotifers inside the maze and an analysis of their behaviors in different situations.
Image Source: Sketch Port
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