Tuesday 10 May 2011

Slime molds - shape shifters

Walking home through Coed y Bleiddiau, part of the Maentwrog nature reserve, I saw a pair of unusual objects about 10 foot up a tree. Bearing in mind some of the unusual sculptures on the nearby nature trail I thought I’d best check with the warden to see if this was another work of art. Not art but nature or maybe witchcraft. These were slime molds.

Doug (the warden) kindly copied me a 7 page document about the finer details of slime molds. It was the sort of prose that requires a dictionary every other word and by the end of the first page I was none the wiser.

What I have managed to absorb is that they are shape shifters. A bunch of amoeba? Reach for the dictionary and you will understand they are a ‘genus of Protozoa’.  Amoeba is derived from the Greek word meaning change and Proteus was a Greek god who could change his shape. So now you know.

Looking at the images on Wikipedia I can see that mine most closely match the False PuffballEnteridium lycoperdon. It’s at the stage called ‘aethalium’ which precedes the release of spores after which it’ll look like the dried remains of a mudball.

If you go down to the woods today, you’ll never believe your eyes.

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