Sunday, November 10, 2013

Myxomycete Mania

Maybe its just me, but I love myxomycetes, more fondly known as slime molds. 

Perhaps its because I grew up in the era of Dungeons and Dragons, perhaps its their strange somewhat freakish mobility, or maybe its just their super funky life cycle, but I find the slime molds to be such alluring and charismatic organisms, so...imagine my delight when I encountered this intricately gorgeous Physarum species in my yard moving through some leaf litter.

When I checked on it again the next day, not even 24 hours later, the beautiful, veined, brilliantly colored yellow network of the streaming plasmodial form was gone, and the stalk-like sporangial phase had begun. These stalks of sporangia contain the spores of the Physarum, remind me of whimsical miniature balloons.

Not only does this rather ubiquitous species of slime mold exhibit a keen ability to navigate its environment, it seems able to find the shortest route between itself and a perceived food source. Scientists have observed this species of slime mold solve mazes, anticipate events, regulate nutritional intake, and simulate highly efficient road-like networks

It turns out we have learned a lot from these single celled model organisms. <3