FACTS: The word amoeba comes from the Greek word meaning “to change” – and Amoeba proteus was named after the Greek sea god Proteus who could transform himself to avoid being captured. One of the most common amoebas in the world, Amoeba proteus is constantly changing its shape and color as it explores (and engulfs) its environment!
First discovered in 1755, amoebas are now widely familiar one-cell creatures. They move by extending pseudopods ("false feet") and then oozing into them. This fantastic motion is achieved by the circulation of endoplasm and ectoplasm (interior and exterior gels) within the cell body – and it has long captured the public imagination.
But despite their fame, amoebas generally live quiet lives at the bottom of ponds, though they are also a common subject of scientific study. In fact, scientists have determined that amoebas have an unusually long genome – over a hundred times as long as the human genome, though the value of that length is still unknown.
The average life-span of an amoeba is little more than two days. But because they reproduce by dividing (or fission), amoebas are more or less immortal. Unless misfortune strikes. Or starvation. And to avoid that, when amoebas get hungry, they eat body and soul, surrounding their prey with their pods and absorbing it into themselves.
Fortunately, even giant amoebas are only a millimeter in length – only fellow microbes need fear an attack of a killer amoeba!
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