This above is an image of Stemonitis axifera, a species of slime mold.
And here we have the hair cells (stereocilia) within the inner ear (in this case of a chicken).
And another image of the slime mold Stemonitis axifera.
When considering the elaborate and amazing life cycles and signaling of slime molds....and the exquisite processing of our auditory systems.... a thought/question is now stuck in my head.
As with microbiologist Lynn Margulis' theories of the coevolution of much of our sensory system through symbiosis with bacteria....could animal auditory systems have their beginnings in a symbiosis with fungus?
Consider the widespread symbiosis of mycorrhizae in plant roots...fungal hyphae penetrate into the cells of the root cortex, producing characteristic branched structures called arbuscules...the plant benefits as does the fungus. "In these associations, the fungi derive photosynthetic sugars from the plants, and they assist the plant by facilitating the uptake of mineral nutrients and water. Approximately 70-80% of all plants have mycorrhizae. Mycorrhizae have evolved repeatedly in different groups of fungi." (http://www.clarku.edu/faculty/
related notes: "The molecular biology of hair cells has seen considerable progress in recent years, with the identification of the motor protein (prestin) that underlies somatic electromotility in the outer hair cells. Santos-Sacchi et al. have shown that prestin's function is dependent on chloride channel signalling and that it is compromised by the common marine pesticide tributyltin (TBT). Because this class of pollutant bioconcentrates up the food chain, the effect is pronounced in top marine predators such as orcas and toothed whales.
(- Santos-Sacchi Joseph, Song Lei, Zheng Jiefu, Nuttall Alfred L (2006-04-12)."Control of mammalian cochlear amplification by chloride anions". Journal of Neuroscience 26)
Biofilms, Biofouling , Epibiosis
Please hold for image credits- I have been searching for the right images and finding them with credits to the original photographers has not been easy. If you by chance know whose photographs these are and can link me to name and/or original site I will be sure to credit.
This post to be continued/expanded. Just sharing some thoughts in progress.
more on slime molds: 'Slime Molds Show Surprising Degree of Intelligence
A creature with no brain can learn from and even anticipate events'.: http://discovermagazine.com/2009/jan/