Monday, February 20, 2012

Myco Monday: Myxomycete Maybe

Fuzzy myxomycete aka slime mould

'Fungus' is from the Latin for a mushroom, but traditionally the word has been used for any kind of organism that shares some structural similarities with the true fungi (Eumycota). This includes several groups that are now known to be bizarre communal amoebae and not at all related to fungi: the Slime Mo(u)lds. Various slime moulds slither around as acellular amoebae, threads, or slug-like masses of slime engulfing bacteria, yeasts, and other small bits of organic matter. One species, Dictyostelium discoideum, even carries around its own bacteria and 'farms' them.

 When food or moisture becomes limiting, the slimy amoeboid forms turn into what look like mini-mushrooms with a stalk and 'frutification' containing spores. Many are strikingly attractive and all bizarrely interesting. We think these pictures are of the sporulating bodies of a plasmodial slime mould (Class Myxomycetes), possibly in the genus Physarum. One thing that makes us not sure is that none of the pictures that we've seen are as furry as ours. But may it may be that a true fungus has been growing over the slime mould.
Marbled Feather-hair Springtail 
What is for certain is that a very handsome springtail, Ptenothrix marmorata (Packard, 1873), is munching on the furry bladders. The species name, marmorata, means 'Marbled', which is certainly apropos, and the genus name means 'Feather-hair', presumably referring to ornate body setae.

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