Physarum album (Knikkend kalkkopje (BE) / Baumwoll-Stielkügelchen (DE) / No other common names found ) is a slime mold in the Physaraceae family. I first like to mention this image is made with magnification 2/1 : 150mm macro (1/1) + 2x extender. - the actual size of the image is about 11.1mm x 7.4 mm !!!. (The green colored "plants" in the image are just little mosses.)
Slime molds were formerly classified as fungi, but are no longer considered part of this kingdom. Slime molds, as a group, are polyphyletic, but most of them are now placed in the Protozoa - Amoebozoa.
Describing the life cycle of these weird organisms is not easy but very interesting:
Slime molds begin their life cycle as amoeba-like cells. These unicellular amoebae are commonly haploid and multiply if they encounter their favorite food, bacteria. These amoebae can mate if they encounter the correct mating type and form zygotes which then grow into plasmodia (a gelatinous "slime" - the first part of the name of this group of organismes refers to this stage).
Plasmodia are multinucleate masses of protoplasm that move by cytoplasmic streaming. In order for the plasmodium to move, cytoplasm must be diverted towards the leading edge from the lagging end. This process results in the plasmodium advancing in fan-like fronts. As it moves, plasmodium also gains nutrients through the phagocytosis of bacteria and small pieces of organic matter. (So the slime molds actually can move around from one place to another ...)
When the food supply wanes, the plasmodium will migrate to the surface of its substrate, entering the next stage of its life cycle: transform into rigid fruiting bodies. The fruiting bodies or sporangia are what we commonly see, they superficially look like fungi or molds (the second part of the name) but are not related to the true fungi. These sporangia will then release haploid spores which hatch into amoebae to begin the life cycle again.
In this image you can see immature fruiting bodies (the yellow parts) and some remains of the plasmodium (the brown and slimy looking parts). Tormorrow I will show some mature fruiting bodies of the same species.
Image: Kalmthout (BE) - 01/10/2010
© Johan Dierckx
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All species are photographed in their natural habitat, without cutting or capturing them, and with maximal respect and the least possible disturbance to the environment.
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