Slime mold

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Slime mold (or slime mould, see spelling differences) is a broad term describing fungus-like organisms that use spores to reproduce.[1] Slime molds were formerly classified as fungi, but are no longer considered part of this kingdom.[2]

Their common name refers to part of some of these organisms' life cycles where they can appear as gelatinous "slime". This is mostly seen with the myxomycetes, which are the only macroscopic slime molds.

Slime molds have been found all over the world and feed on microorganisms that live in any type of dead plant material. For this reason, these organisms are usually found in soil, lawns, and on the forest floor, commonly on deciduous logs. However, in tropical areas they are also common on inflorescences, fruits and in aerial situations (e.g., in the canopy of trees). In urban areas, they are found on mulch or even in the leaf mold in gutters. One of the most commonly encountered slime molds, both in nature in forests in the temperate zones of the earth as well as in classrooms and laboratories is the yellow Physarum polycephalum.

Most slime mold are smaller than a few centimeters, but some species may reach sizes of up to several square meters and masses of up to 30 grams.[3] Many have striking colours such as yellow, brown and white.

Contents

Taxonomy

Slime molds can generally be divided into two main groups.

  • A plasmodial slime mold involves numerous individual cells attached to each other, forming one large membrane. This "supercell" (a syncytium) is essentially a bag of cytoplasm containing thousands of individual nuclei. See heterokaryosis.
  • By contrast, cellular slime molds spend most of their lives as individual unicellular protists, but when a chemical signal is secreted, they assemble into a cluster that acts as one organism.

Slime molds, as a group, are polyphyletic. They were originally represented by the subkingdom Gymnomycota in the Fungi kingdom and included the defunct phyla Myxomycota, Acrasiomycota and Labyrinthulomycota. Today, slime molds have been divided between several supergroups, none of which are included in the kingdom Fungi.

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