What is Amoeboid Movement?

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  • 0:03 Definition of Amoeboid…
  • 1:27 How Amoeboid Movement Works
  • 3:27 Origin of the Amoeboid Term
  • 4:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Phenix
In this lesson, we'll explore what amoeboid movement means, how it is accomplished, and where the name is derived from. We'll also see what forms of life are capable of this unique form of movement.

Definition of Amoeboid Movement

Most mammals have legs for walking, fish have fins for swimming, and birds have wings for flying, but what if you didn't have any of these structures? Well, you might use use amoeboid movement. Simply put, amoeboid movement is a crawling movement used by some types of cells and unicellular organisms that have no set structures for mobility.

Alright, so amoeboid movement applies to those with no set feet, fins, or wings; but what about snakes, worms, and other things that crawl. Is that a type of crawling amoeboid movement? The answer to this very good question is no. Just because an organism crawls doesn't mean that the organism uses amoeboid movement. Unless of course, it has one other key feature - being amorphous in shape.

Amorphous structures (a meaning without and morphous meaning morphology or shape) are living things without any fixed shape. In fact, they can actually change the shape of their bodies. So, while snakes, worms, and other creepy-crawlies do crawl or slither, the shape of their body doesn't really alter during the process. That's why this movement is reserved for cells and unicellular organisms.

How Amoeboid Movement Works

Amoeboid movement works by using something called cytoplasmic flow, or the force of the volume of fluid inside of the cell pulling the cell forward. Since the cell has no feet of its own, it essentially makes fake feet, known as pseudopodia (pseudo meaning fake and podia meaning feet).

To create these little fake feet, the cytoplasm within the cell undergoes a series of biochemical changes that alter the viscosity (or thickness) of the fluid within different areas of the cell. In other words, amoeboid movement is essentially a coordinated dance between the thickness of the cytoplasmic fluid in different areas of the cell.

Once the cell senses the direction it wants to move (like in response to a food item), the cytoplasm at that end of the cell changes into a more watery form of cytoplasm, called plasmasol. Concurrent to this, the cytoplasm at the tail-end becomes a more thick and gelatinous version, called plasmagel. This plasmagel essentially forms a wall so that the more watery plasmasol in front of it has no where to flow but forward.

It helps to remember which is which by thinking of the 'sol' in plasmasol as being watery and thin like in a solution, and the 'gel' in plasmagel as being thick just like a gel in say, toothpaste.

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