Sunday, June 24, 2018

Scrambled Eggs Slime Mold

Wandering about our Littleton farm this morning, I noticed a yellow object in a swath of wood mulch.  Thinking it was a toy left behind by one of my grandsons, I walked over for a closer look and found that it was a yellow, sponge-like mass, broken by a few orange creases; frankly, it resembled a cheese omelet.

In fact, it was Fuligo septica, commonly known as scrambled eggs slime mold (or, if you prefer, dog vomit slime mold).  One of the more abundant species of slime molds, it is a member of the plasmodial group, characterized by sprawling masses of fused amoebic cells; once the cells congregate, their cell walls break down and the resulting structure is a cytoplasmic bag with thousands of nuclei.  The cellular slime molds, on the other hand, produce a mass in which the amoebic cells retain the integrity of their cell walls.  In both groups, fruiting structures eventually form, releasing spores that mature to form individual amoebic cells.

Once included in the Fungi Kingdom, slime molds are now recognized to be unique life forms within the Kingdom Protista.  Unlike fungi, they do not feed on decaying organic matter but, rather, on the microorganisms that do so (i.e. bacteria).  Recent storms along the Front Range, following a prolonged period of hot, dry weather, likely triggered the slime mold's appearance.

For more details on slime molds see: Hybrid Life Forms