The "Ew!" Factor: The Life Cycle of a Slime Mold

The "Ew!" Factor: The Life Cycle of a Slime Mold

They are not plants, animals or fungi. They are found on every continent in the world, on hidden away corners of rotting stumps, and other types of bark. We are talking about the unique and curious slime mold that has been a fascination for scientists for centuries. One of the interesting facts about the slime mold is the life cycle that presents different forms for examination.

Stage One: The Zygote

A new slime mold is born when it is shaken out of its parent like a grain of salt, only much smaller - microscopic, actually. This slime mold is called a zygote, which begins to increase in size through a process of cell division. This zygote will feast upon bacteria that is found in rotting wood and other sources and continue its cell division until it grows into a blob that is know as a plasmodium.

Stage Two: Plasmodium

The plasmodium stage of a slime mold is the one in which the species begins to devour every piece of nutrient in sight, like something you would see in an old horror movie. It will move across its environment at a rate of an inch an hour, which is pretty speedy when you consider the size of this substance at the onset. Of course, as it eats, it grows, until it reaches the next stage of a slime mold. You can find slime mold at this stage in a variety of colors, from khaki and hot pink, to red, orange and yellow.

Stage Three: Sporangia

At this stage of a slime mold, the plasmodium has run out of food and converted itself to this form which looks like a ball or glob, which can also come in a variety of colors. These globs may or may not have a stem attached, depending upon the type of slime mold that it is. At this stage of the life cycle, reproduction takes place, and more zygotes are formed that will eventually become plasmodium, and so on.

Slime molds have been a fascination to scientists, because they come in a wide variety of species, and they are unlike any other category of living thing that exists on this earth. Sometimes they are mistaken for mushrooms or other types of fungus because of their appearance, but they most definitely do not fall into the fungus category. Slime molds are unique unto themselves and make for an interesting case study for any who dare to search for these one-of-a-kind creatures.