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> Vampire Ameboas are all around us
Vampire Ameboas are all around us
Holy hell these things are nifty
Very cool article from the BBC and Michael Marshall
“Vampire amoebas” were first described in 1865 by the Russian biologist Leon Semenowitj Cienkowski, one of the founders of microbiology. He discovered bright red single-celled creatures, rather like amoebas, which attacked algae by perforating their cell walls and extracting their contents. Evidently conscious of the similarity to vampire folklore, Cienkowski called the microbes Vampyrella.
Their macabre feeding style has fascinated microbiologists for 150 years. A 1926 study describes how Vampyrella lateritia “spreads partly around the doomed cell” and “within a minute or so the transverse walls of the attacked cell begin to bend gradually inward”. When they finally buckle, the vampire amoeba “suddenly swells” due to “the injection of algal cell contents into the animal through an oval opening”.
After they have eaten their fill, vampyrellids build a hard wall around themselves called a cyst. “They stay in an immobile state and digest their food,” says Sebastian Hess of the University of Cologne in Germany. This takes a day or two, and at the same time the cell divides. As a result, when the cyst reopens there may be two vampire amoebas where previously there was just one.