The wet and cool conditions in the woods are ideal for all sorts of strange things in the woods. This week I came across some very cool slime mould at Miracle Beach Provincial Park.
Slime moulds have a weird combination of both fungi and animal characteristics. Like animals, they are capable of locomotion and are free living. CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks had two short clips on the decision making ability of these unicelular animals that was quite interesting. Listen to them here (scroll down the pages to the clip):
Slime molds reproduce by forming fruiting bodies like fungi that produce spores. Because they don’t really clearly fit in either category they are placed in their own group called Myxomycetes. This Greek name means myxa (slime) and mycetes (fungi). Around 700 species of myxomycetes have been described worldwide.
Keep an eye open for these bizarre and beautiful organisms the next time you go for a walk in the woods. I usually find them in old growth and well established second growth forests that are fairly dark and damp. You’ll be amazed at how often you see slime moulds once you start looking for them!