I was out for a walk in the woods and noticed a slime blob growing on a log. I had not stopped and looked at one before (actually I don’t remember ever seeing one before), and wondered if this was an alien life form beginning to inhabit our planet.
A bit of research on the internet told me that I had not discovered an alien life form, but a simple slime mould. The orange colour stands out in the greens and browns of the woods. The following is adapted from http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/biology/b103/f01/web1/blucher.html
A slime mould feeds on fungi, bacteria, protozoa, other micro-organisms, and decaying organic matter.
Slime moulds live in moist terrestrial habitats, such as on decaying wood or fresh cow dung, leaves or other organic matter retaining abundant moisture. The same type of organism is often seen in the woods on decaying logs.
Slime moulds were once considered to be animals due to their creeping phase. One of the founders of mycology called them Mycetozoa, from the Greek words myketes (fungi), and zoon (animals). This name continued to be used until the 1970’s. Some previous researchers classified the slime molds in the phylum Protozoa of the animal kingdom. (4)
Mycologists (those who study fungi) now consider these strange organisms to belong to a class called Myxomycetes; myxa (slime) and myketes (fungi). Even today, the true relationship of the Myxomycetes to fungi remains obscure.
Slime moulds were once regarded as a fungus but later classified with the Protista. In a recent system of classification based on analysis of nucleic acid (genetic material) sequences, slime moulds have been classified in a major group called the eukarya (or eukaryotes), which includes plants and animals.
In the amebalike, or cellular, slime molds, up to 125,000 individual cells aggregate and flow together, forming a multicellular mass called a pseudoplasmodium that resembles a slug and crawls about before settling in a location with acceptable warmth and brightness.