Growth processes of a planar biological network of plasmodium of a true slime mold, Physarum polycephalum, were analyzed quantitatively. The plasmodium forms a transportation network through which protoplasm conveys nutrients, oxygen, and cellular organelles similarly to blood in a mammalian vascular network. To analyze the network structure, vertices were defined at tube bifurcation points. Then edges were defined for the tubes connecting both end vertices. Morphological analysis was attempted along with conventional topological analysis, revealing that the growth process of the plasmodial network structure depends on environmental conditions. In an attractive condition, the network is a polygonal lattice with more than six edges per vertex at the early stage and the hexagonal lattice at a later stage. Through all growing stages, the tube structure was not highly developed but an unstructured protoplasmic thin sheet was dominantly formed. The network size is small. In contrast, in the repulsive condition, the network is a mixture of polygonal lattice and tree-graph. More specifically, the polygonal lattice has more than six edges per vertex in the early stage, then a tree-graph structure is added to the lattice network at a later stage. The thick tube structure was highly developed. The network size, in the meaning of Euclidean distance but not topological one, grows considerably. Finally, the biological meaning of the environment-dependent network structure in the plasmodium is discussed.
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