Today I thought I’d focus on a fascinating lifeform that you might not have encountered before. It’s the lifeform thought to have inspired the classic 1950s film The Blob. There are several variants, one of which possesses a life cycle considered the most bizarre of any microorganism. They display traits similar to both animals and fungi, but in fact are neither. They’re single-celled organisms called slime moulds. Ever heard of them? They sound delightful don’t they?
Slime moulds live in leaf litter and feed upon other microorganisms. What’s remarkable is how they respond when food is scarce. In desperation they release a chemical signal which encourages them to clump together. As they come together they form a slug-like structure which crawls to the top of the leaf litter. How astounding is that? This is a huge mass of independent single-celled organisms behaving as if they’re one single creature. But it gets weirder. Upon reaching the top of the leaf litter they reorganise themselves again. This time they take the form of a mushroom-like object which releases spores into the wind. The spores then create new colonies elsewhere. We don’t yet understand how they organise themselves in such sophisticated ways, but we know that this is only the start of their organising abilities.
Here’s a video of them working out the most efficient way to route the Tokyo rail system:
And here’s one about them finding their way around mazes: