The way fungus-like slime moulds grow could help engineers design wireless communication networks.
Scientists drew this conclusion after observing a slime mould as it grew into a network that was almost identical to the Tokyo rail system.
The scientists describe their ideas for "biologically inspired networks" in the journal Science. They have incorporated the slime mould's efficient strategy into a mathematical formula. This "slime formula" could help engineers develop better, more efficient designs.
The single amoeboid cells of slime moulds fuse and spread into a network as they feed and grow.
"These biological networks have been honed by many cycles of evolutionary selection pressure," wrote the researchers in their article.
The research team, led by Dr Atsushi Tero from Hokkaido University, Japan, wanted to capture this evolved efficiency, which they say could be used to inform human engineering decisions.