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14 December 2021 What Is the Weight of a Single Amoeba and Why Does It Matter?
Nicholas P. Money, Mark W. F. Fischer
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Cell size is an important variable in the study of cellular growth, metabolism, and the cell cycle. The large size of Amoeba proteus and the ease with which it can be collected and cultured have made it a star in biology education—and it was a model for research on cell biology before the introduction of molecular genetic methods. Measuring the cytoplasmic density of a single amoeba without modern instrumentation seems like a difficult task, but this was done with supreme accuracy in the 1940s. The solution was based on the familiar Cartesian diver that is used to demonstrate Archimedes's principle. It required the fabrication of a tiny diver that would respond to the additional mass of a cell. Experiments using this method allowed investigators to study changes in size and density associated with feeding, starvation, and cell division. This research is an illustration of the ingenuity of cell biologists in the pre-molecular genetic era of their field, which is often overlooked by contemporary scientists. The consideration of the mass, density, and buoyancy of free-living amoebas encourages a new hypothesis about the evolution of testate amoebas.

Nicholas P. Money and Mark W. F. Fischer "What Is the Weight of a Single Amoeba and Why Does It Matter?," The American Biology Teacher 83(9), 571-574, (14 December 2021).
Published: 14 December 2021

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Cartesian diver
cell density
cell mass
cell size
testate amoebas
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