We arrived at work early one morning to discover a strange new sight on our mulch pile. What at first appeared to be the remnants of something’s breakfast turned out to be one of the strangest life forms found at Prairie Ridge.
This odd looking critter turned out to be neither plant, animal, nor fungus. This was a slime mold!
Slime molds, or as scientists call them myxomycetes, have evaded biologists’ efforts to categorize them for many years. Their life cycle includes several different stages ending in a large single cell called a plasmodium. The slimy plasmodium eats bacteria and tiny pieces of organic matter as it creeps along at a top speed of 1-millimeter per hour. If conditions are suitable, the plasmodium will develop fruiting bodies that produce spores. The plasmodium can also convert into a hardened, dry form called a sclerotim if conditions are unfavorable for spore production.
Slime molds can be brightly colored or nearly transparent, with many species remaining very small. The individual that we came across was fairly substantial measuring more than a foot in diameter.
Be sure to be on the look out for these fascinating creatures during your next visit to Prairie Ridge.