Saturday, July 23, 2011

Slime Mold Sporangia

At first glance this might look like a yummy dessert, but the longer you look the creepier it looks.
Slime Mold Sporangia, Stemonitis sp.
   This is a clump of sporangia (spore-bearing structures) from the slime mold, Stemonitis.  These strawberry dessert-looking slime mold sporangia showed up on a pine stump in our back yard.  I remember seeing the slime mold's plasmodium (mass of protoplasm) stage on the stump earlier but I didn't pay much attention to it or photograph it. 
   Yesterday I posted this photo with the question, "what is this?".  I also gave the clue that this thing is "creepy", and it would make a good dessert for a slug.

   I say "creepy" because slime mold's plasmodium does creep around in an amoeba-like manner on the surface of decaying wood like this pine stump. The plasmodium engulfs bacteria and other food particles as it creeps around.  The slime molds don't form hyphae like fungi do.
   I said it would make a good dessert for a slug because apparently slugs like to eat slime molds.  Here is a link to a paper on the Feeding activities of slugs on Myxomycetes and macrofungi.  Slime mold is another way of saying myxomycetes.
   Anyway, we had a very wet spring and the slime molds were busy running around on the stumps and even the picnic table in our back yard.  Now that summer is in full swing, it has been very dry.  Because the slime molds like moist environments they must have decided to form spores and get "outa' here".  Here is a picture of a young clump of Stemonitis sporangia.

   I'm guessing this clump began to form only a day or so ago, and the strawberry dessert-looking sporangia in the first picture is just a little more developed. 
The next day both clumps looked like this.

Later, the sporangia looked like this.
 Mature Stemonitis Sporangia
 Pictured below are three clusters of Stemonitis sporangia at slightly different stages of development.
Yep, myxomycetes on the picnic table might look tasty, though only for a little while, but
if you mix...oh, my seats with plenty of rain, at least the slugs will feast.

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