Posted by: soniahs | October 25, 2012

In the garden: slime molds

I want to take more photos of the garden and post them soon, but for now, here’s a photo of one unique garden denizen that I saw last weekend:

Plasmodial slime mold.

This is a slime mold– a type of large protist that is not related to mold (which is a fungus), though they can look slimy. Slime molds are pretty cool critters. Plasmodial slime molds have two stages in their life cycle: the plasmodial form, which moves around and feeds on (generally) decaying matter, and a single-celled resting form, which is formed when the plasmodium runs out of food or environmental conditions are too harsh.

While other slime molds come in very different forms, the plasmodial slime molds (myxogastrids) are pretty distinctive in their multinucleate feeding form-these are single-celled organisms, with many nuclei, that are visible to the naked eye. These covered an area a bit smaller than the size of my palm. And they’re all one cell!

I’m not sure what species the one pictured here is. Slime molds are fairly common in temperate areas, and it’s a bit hard to tell them apart if you’re not an expert. I found these on some wood chips in the mulch. When I went back on Monday, they were gone. Either they oozed off somewhere else, someone moved them, or they broke up into microscopic spores. Regardless, they’re probably still in the garden, waiting for conditions to be right to nom on something else.

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