A team of researchers from CRCA-CBI Toulouse and Uppsala University in Sweden have shown that even unicellular organisms can exhibit a wide variety of behaviour for when it comes to making good decisions.

When deciding between different options, animals, including humans, face the dilemma that making fast decisions can lead to mistakes, while making accurate ones tends to take time. In the biological world, this can expose an organism to competition (for example, for food).


The researchers, led by Audrey Dussutour, studied the slime mould Physarum polycephalum. They confirmed that this unicellular organism can be divided into “fast” and “slow” explorers. They found that the latter make more accurate decisions – especially when they have more time, by taking food cues on board.

When faced with competition, the fast explorers are better at making decisions when a single food source is available, while the slow ones excell when two food sources of varying quality are offered


Phenotypic variability predicts decision accuracy in unicellular organisms, Audrey Dussutour, Qi Ma and David Sumpter, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B

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