Here be giant amoebas

In the deep sea, there dwell amoebas of unusual size. Of course, "gigantic" is relative. Although they would dwarf other amoeba species, the biggest xenophyophores are a little more than 4 inches across. (Via A Moment of Science, which suggests, rightly, that this would make an excellent Halloween costume.)


      1. Just so’s you know, I’ve always considered the animated giant amoeba to be my favorite “Star Trek” special effect. Someone must’ve worked so hard to make it so gloppy-looking, complete with a little pulsing nucleus, and there are lots of exposures and masks stacked up to give it all those layers, and the little halo around the nucleus, etc. Its outline looks like they started with a blob of goo squished under a glass plate (in one of the shots, you can see that they’re gently lifting the glass to make the amoeba’s pseudopods stretch.)

        Kirk and Spock should have eaten the exploded bits of that thing. It would undoubtedly have been meatier than the standard Starfleet fare — all we ever saw them eat on the show was cut-up cubes of orange, blue, and green kitchen sponges. There’s even one episode (“Journey to Babel”, if I remember correctly) where they’re drinking wine with cubes of sponges floating in it. I think the only time they ate anything non-sponge-based was in “The Man Trap” where they have celery soaked in red dye to keep Peter Davison from swiping it.

        Of course, sponges are also weird-ass deep-sea creatures. They’re one of the few organisms where humans decided, “Hey, let’s rub their skeletons all over our bodies.”

    1. I’ll take that bet. Though I would definitely try it, I’m guessing it would be too fragile to do much with, and eating it would be like swallowing a bag of unusually viscous, perhaps muddy salt water. Plus heavy metals!

      Of course, my speculation is not terribly well-informed. Somebody really needs to settle it empirically.

  1. I’m with Kibo! on picture and deliciousness conjecturing.  I bet a giant amoeba would fry up like a delicious egg. 

    what’s that? loaded with heavy metals? *head bangs, dies*

    1. I bet a giant amoeba would fry up like a delicious egg.

      I was thinking more along the lines of breading them and deep-frying them. They’d come out looking like those dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets Perdue sells, except they’d look nothing like anything in particular. Come to think of it, the dinosaur ones don’t look like dinosaurs anyway. The only meat nuggets I’ve ever seen that actually looked like what they were are the ones at Disneyland shaped like fried mouse heads.

      The other recipe I’d try with giant amoebas? Egg drop soup.

      Oh, and a Jell-O mold. Red, of course, to honor Steve McQueen, everyone’s favorite thirty-year-old teenage punk. He was the baddest badass of the 1950s. Why, sometimes he left the top button of his shirt open, so you could see a little of his undershirt!

  2. Sure, starts out like this, all cute and hiding in deep sea trenches, but soon they’re sucking up starships and energy and stuff. Giant-ass amoebas, they’re a bad lot.

  3. Just wait until they get a load of Shea and RAW’s Leviathan. It’s probably just down the trench a bit.

  4. Neat as they are, xenophyophores definitely don’t dwarf all other amoebae. There are giants on land, too: the myxogastrids or plasmodial slime molds. Despite the name, molecular biology confirms they belong with the Amoebozoa, and since they supposedly can be over a foot in size, it seems wrong to say xenophyophores are the largest of all cells like the article.

    I don’t know if anyone has tried eating slime molds, but they have a lot of chemical defenses, so shouldn’t be tasty. However, some of them have been used for antibiotic and cancer research.

    Also, despite the picture they used, xenophyophores are much less like the famous Amoeba and its relatives. Wikipedia offers this image. They really are their own, peculiar type of life.

  5. After all the hoopla over the fortieth anniversary of the moon landing (which, don’t get me wrong, I think  was a pretty big deal) I was surprised to not see anything about the fiftieth anniversary of the dive of the Trieste to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, which happened in January 1960.

    As I recall Piccard and Walsh said they saw an enormous flatfish rise up from the bottom just before they touched down. Maybe it was really a giant amoeba…

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