Sunday, February 12, 2012

the evolution of slimon, the slime mold

This semester, I'm taking a class called Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds, taught by Professor George Hudler. This class is something of a beginner's foray into mycology. We had a demo session in place of class one day last week, and one of the activities at this demo session included "making" your own pet slime mold. At this DIY slime mold station, I used a scalpel to cut off a nail-sized piece of slime mold-covered agar and placed it in my petri dish, along with 10-20 oat flakes. I sealed my petri dish with parafilm (it looks like tape, but it's stretchier and more epic) and that slime mold has been growing ever since I brought it home on Thursday.

Above: Slime mold as of Thursday evening, around 6pm. I named him Slimon. He's yellow. He's the little triangular bit you see just left of center. It's not easy taking pictures of a pet slime mold in a petri dish filled with condensation.

Below: Two photos of Slimon on Friday morning, 11am. Not much has changed overnight, but he's started to produce spores, creeping out toward some of the oats nearby.


Below: Two photos from Friday afternoon, 4pm. Slimon's really starting to take off. You can see all the little networks that are forming outward in a circular pattern. Fungi tend to grow this way so as to disperse their spores most efficiently. (Interesting fact: slime molds are not really fungi - they are actually protists - but mycologists like to include them in the fungi kingdom anyway.)

What causes a slime mold to produce spores, you might ask? There are a number of factors, really, but changes in moisture and food availability are the two main factors at play here.


Below: Slimon on Saturday, 12pm. He's grown quite an amazing amount in just 16 hours. Just look at all those networks and protoplasmic strands!

Below: Slimon on Saturday, 2:30pm.

I know a lot of you might find this kind of stuff to be a bit squicky, but I think slime molds and fungi in general are really amazing and beautiful organisms on another level. They operate in mysterious ways, and there are always new species and things to discover. They've done a lot in human history (e.g., "nature's ultimate recyclers," the Irish potato famine, penicillin, the deliciousness that is the enoki mushroom...), and you have to totally respect that.

Above: Slimon, late Saturday night, around 11pm.

Below: Slimon, 12 hours later on Sunday morning, 11am.

I'll leave you with some links to more slime mold-related reading, because I find these articles to be really interesting:

1 comment:

  1. FASCINATING! Watching a (rail)road grow in a petri dish... in the kitchen! Wonderful!
    Like the European proverb: "All roads lead to Rome" -dates back to the Roman Empire...- all roads lead to the creative nucleus: The Kitchen!
    The Kitchen Table: THE Center of gravity for creativity!
    Magical things happen around -or on- the Kitchen Table!!!