Sunday, June 10, 2007
"Slime moulds (or Slime molds), are protists that normally take the form of amoebae, but under certain conditions, such as those harmful to the organisms, change into globular sluglike beings, for mobility, which then develop fruiting bodies that release spores, superficially similar to the sporangia of fungi. They should not be confused with true moulds, which are actually fungi. Although cosmopolitan in distribution, they are usually small and rarely noticed. There are several different groups. Slime moulds can be found in damp and dark forest floors. Slime moulds tend to grow on rotted wood after rainfall. Slime moulds generally move only about 1 millimetre per hour, although some can reach 2 centimeters per minute."
"Most notable are the plasmodial slime moulds or myxogastrids (also known as acellular or true slime moulds), where the feeding stage takes the form of a giant amoeba with thousands of nuclei, called a plasmodium. It is not divided by cell membranes, but rather is enclosed by a single outer one, and is thus like a single large cell. Most are smaller than a few centimetres, but the very largest reach areas of up to two square metres."
"In the early 16th century. the Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch depicted an estimated 22 species of slime mould in The Garden of Earthly Delights."
"It has been observed that they can find their way through mazes by spreading out and choosing the shortest path, an interesting example of information processing without a nervous system."
"In 2006, researchers at the University of Southampton and the University of Kobe reported that they had built a six-legged robot whose movement was remotely controlled by a Physarum slime mould. The mould directed the robot into a dark corner most similar to its natural habitat."
I need to figure out how to tell these things apart from fungus, or discarded pieces of pink gum (which evidently they can sometimes resemble). The one in the picture I included (from google) looks like melted ice cream. I'm digging the artful pink border.