Slime moulds can take on a range of appearances, from bulbous growths to branching, delicate mazes.
The exact form—known as sporangia—will depend on the type of slime mould involved.
Plasmodial slime moulds form giant cells, where the contents of each amoeba merge into one giant unit filled with the contents of the other amoebas.
Cellular slime moulds work more like a swarm or like LEGOs. They remain separate but join together to form a wide range of complex shapes and designs.
Then there’s the Labyrinthulomycota (Say that three times fast!) which form into long tubes or branches that can look a lot like a fern or even coral.
This sporangia acts as a single structure and can even move small distances to help find more suitable surroundings or search out new food supplies.
Once the sporangia are near the end of their life cycle, the amoebae will release spores into the surrounding area.
These tiny spores ride the winds or are picked up by bugs or small animals, and are carried away to create more amoebae elsewhere to keep the life cycle continuously moving forward.
So the next time you’re out walking or checking out your favourite nature nook, keep your eyes peeled. There might just be a slime mould lurking nearby!
If you find one, feel free to get close and take a look. But don’t touch them.
They’re not poisonous or anything. In fact, they’re nearly all completely harmless unless you have allergies. But they’re often very delicate!