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John Bonner

  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Position: Emeritus Professor
Title: George M. Moffett Professor of Biology, Emeritus. Lecturer with the rank of Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
  • Evolution
Field: Evolution of development, with a special interest in the social amoebae (cellular slime molds
John Bonner


My prime interests are in evolution and development. I use the cellular slime molds as a tool to seek an understanding of those twin disciplines. These so called social amoebae are common soil organisms and have a peculiar life cycle in that the separate amoebae feed first and then come together to form small multicellular fruiting bodies in which the stalk cells are altruistic and die in the process of lifting the mass of encapsulated spores up into the air. This immediately raises some interesting sociobiological questions of why this system arose by natural selection and what are the mechanisms by which this development is achieved. Along the way important ecological questions are raised. Undoubtedly this social stage in their life cycle is a means of more effective dispersal of the spores in the soil. Presently I am involved in experiments designed to understand how this is achieved in a number of species that vary morphologically.

Recent book publication: The Social Amoebae: The Biology of the Cellular Slime Molds, 2009, Princeton University Press.

Recent Publications

1. 2006. Why Size Matters: from bacteria to blue whales. Princeton University Press.
2. 2002. Lives of a Biologist: Adventures in a Century of Extraordinary Science. Harvard University Press.
3. 2000. First Signals: The Evolution of Multicellular Development. Princeton University Press.
4. 1996. Sixty Years of Biology: Essays on Evolution and Development. Princeton University Press.
5. 1992 Life Cycles: Reflections of an Evolutionary Biologist. Princeton University Press. 209 pp.