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Physarum album

Posted by
Johan Dierckx (Wijnegem, Belgium) on 21 October 2010 in Plant & Nature and Portfolio.

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

Canon EOS 400D 3/10 second F/20.0 ISO 200 300 mm

© Johan Dierckx

The photos on this site are copyrighted, which prohibits anyone to use them to sell, give away, use in email or newsgroups, use in a homepage or otherwise showing to the public without my explicit, prior, written permission. Please feel free to use the "contact"-button below to contact me with any questions.

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.

(To see species in the same taxonomic rank (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus), please use the tags provided with the image. The last tag is the Iso-code for the country where the image was taken. Image-date in DD/MM/YYYY format.)


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Michael from Chester, United Kingdom

Very interesting biological info, and an excellent image.

21 Oct 2010 6:19am

@Michael: Thank you, Michael. It is not obvious what you see in this image and I think most people just haven't seen slime molds in their life. That is why I like to give some more background info.

Veronique from Sarrouilles, France

fallen little pearls of sun (explanation to difficult for my poor english)

21 Oct 2010 7:54am

@Veronique: I'm sorry about the english info, Veronique. For me it too difficult to write this in french too. If you are interested, you can find some general info on slime molds (myxomycètes) on french wikipedia: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myxomyc%C3%A8tes

marci from somewhere in..., Morocco

fascinating! to me they look like little lemon candies waiting to be picked and eaten by the school children~ beautiful shot!

21 Oct 2010 9:08am

@marci: Thanks for your visit and comment, Marci. Nice comparrison but these are less than 1mm big ... think children won't be pleased with these as a candy :-)

Veronique from Sarrouilles, France

21 Oct 2010 9:17am

@Veronique: Wow - some amazing detailed micro-shots at that link ! Hope I sometime can manage these magnifications ... It is realy an honour you thinking of me while seeing those shots.

Lougris from Toulouse, France

superbe !!:)

21 Oct 2010 10:50am

@Lougris: Thank you very much, Lougris.

Dutçh from Chicagoland, United States

Like little christmas lights or ornaments!

21 Oct 2010 3:43pm

@Dutçh: Gnomes have christmas-partys too, you know ...

Loner from Wörgl, Austria

Immer wieder zum Staunen !

21 Oct 2010 6:26pm

@Loner: Thanks, Sonja. Have you or your husband ever seen (and photographed) slime molds ?

Marleen from Netherlands

Ben niet de enige die aan sfeervolle kerstverlichting denkt dus...:-0
Ingenieuze levensvorm en super om dit zo goed te kunnen zien!

21 Oct 2010 8:51pm

@Marleen: Af en toe kom je van die superkleine dingen tegen in de natuur waarvan je je afvraagt - hoe bestaat het toch. En als je dan wat opzoekingen doet van je achterover van de onvoorstelbare levenscyclus van zulke organismen. De natuur zit zo ongelooflijk wonderlijk in mekaar en tegelijk zo kwetsbaar ....
Ik veronderstel dat Kabouterkerstmis trouwens iets vroeger valt dan de onze ... :)

Julie Brown from Indianapolis, United States

You captured the texture on the individual yellow globules well, and the life cycle is really interesting. I'm curious as to why you added the extender to your macro lens. I have thought of doing this with my 100mm macro lens to get more working distance. Does this also give more magnification?

23 Oct 2010 1:51pm

@Julie Brown: With my 150 macro at minimal working distance, I achieve a 1/1 magnification. Adding the 2x extender while holding the same working distance gives a 2/1 magnification. There is a significant loss of light and a bit of sharpness, but for me it works fine with these realy mini subjects - every yellow globule is less than 1mm !! So usually I setup tripod with only the 150 macro attached and make some images. Afterwards i just attach the 1.4 extender or the 2 extender. This way I only have to make some minimal corrections in the framing and in focus. Setting up with extender attached gives a very limited view, making finding your subject very difficult ... I did experiment with both extenders attached but the loss of sharpness in the image was just too big for me to be satisfied. Remember this is field-work - so every breath of wind moves the subject from the left to the right in the viewfinder ... sometimes it is just impossible to get an image :-)
Hope this provides an answer, Julie ?

Christine from Duns, United Kingdom

They are like little lanterns, stunning capture and interesting text

24 Oct 2010 7:10am

@Christine: Realy mini :-) Every "lantarn" is max 1mm... It was actually my youngest son who found these ...

Canon EOS 400D
3/10 second
F/20.0
ISO 200
300 mm

protozoa
amoebozoa
myxogastrea
physarida
physaraceae
physarum
be