We are used to thinking that only the creatures with a develop nervous system can make choices or take risks. However some of the simplest living organisms or mucus can totally change our beliefs about the world around us.
Slime mold “PHYSARUM POLYCEPHALUM” from the Latin meaning “many-headed-Fusarium”. A living organism without any hint of intelligence or consciousness is able to escape from mazes, control robots and composed music. It sounds like fiction. Doesn’t it?
This creature can’t be called either an animal or a plant or a fungus. Although it shares common features with each of these. This something creature eats like an animal, it multiplies like a mushroom and has the color of a plant. It consists of only one single cell, while it can form colonies resembling fungi or an amorphous mucous mass. This strange creature belongs to the class of myxomycetes, slime mold or mushroom like organisms. They live in the undergrowth and prefer damp places such as rotting trees.
Where did this mucus like living thing come from?
Physarum Polycephalum: First Appearance
Such unicellular creatures appeared about half a billion years ago. It was first talked about in May 1973, the Texas woman discovered a rapidly growing yellow spot in her backyard. She tried to get rid of this mucus on her own but no matter what she did, she failed. The frightened woman had called the fire department and police. Just as in horror films, this something was bombarded with water and but this didn’t help. Either a few days later the mysterious guest disappeared all by itself having an otherworldly appearance.
This living organism was nicknamed “The Blob” as in the horror movie of the same name in which a strange substance like jelly spreads around the world, devouring everything in its path. Fortunately, the real blob isn’t dangerous to people. Its favorite delicacy, when in captivity is oatmeal. In nature the mucus feeds on bacteria, mold and rotting leaves.
The world quickly forgot about the unusual Texas mucus but in 2016, a study was published. Its authors came to the conclusion that this mucus possesses a certain kind of memory. Biologists from the center for Integrative Biology of Toulouse, Audrey Dussutour and David Vogel, concluded that the blob was capable of learning.
Scientists Discover New Supernatural Abilities
Scientists managed to teach it to avoid substances that were harmful to it, such as coffee or salt. In its search for food, the same team of biologists discovered that the “PHYSARUM POLYCEPHALUM” mucus not only can be well trained but can also transfer its knowledge to is fellow blobs.
During the experiment biologists taught 2000 myxomycetes, not to be afraid of salt. They had to cross a bridge covered with salt, in order to get to their favorite treats. At the same time the other 2,000 blobs perform the same task but moving over a salt-free bridge. Then the researchers views the blobs together in pairs, pioneers who had already crossed the salt bridge. Inexperienced pairs and mixed pairs, in which the experienced and inexperienced blobs merged with each other.
After that all the blobs had to cross the bridge covered with salt. Scientists were surprised to note that myxomycetes from the mixed group moved as fast as the experienced group and much faster than the inexperienced group. As if they already knew that salt wasn’t dangerous to them. Scientists have also discovered, the way in which the Blobs exchange information. Observing the process of fusion under microscope, biologists saw a tube or cord resembling a blood vessel.
Blobs used the tube to transmit all the information to each other. The mysterious blob can crawl at a speed of up to 1.57 inches or 4 cm per hour, without the help of legs, fins or wings. Having no eyes and stomach, the organisms still nevertheless finds and digests food. It’s almost impossible to kill. If you cut it in half the blob will heal itself in just two minutes and it’s size doubles daily.
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Weird Food Habits That Just Shocked Scientists
In 2009, a group of French and Australian scientists showed that the sludge can not only get to food efficiently but also make decisions. They scattered food around the Fusarium with varying degrees of nutrition and monitored its further actions. The slimeball started to sense shoots in the direction of each of the food sources. Analyzed them and finally put most of its mass in the direction of the most satisfying food source. A year later the mucus itself already adopted a balanced diet. Choosing between the same food with a different ratio of proteins and carbohydrates. Agar of 2% concentration with a mixed oat extract, remained untouched. Preference was given to foods with a higher content of this favorite treat 6% and 10% of agar extract.
A year later Japanese and Hungarian scientists showed the world a new scientific sensation. The slime ball also possessed a topographic Talent. It’s well versed in navigation choosing the shortest path to reach food in a maze. In the experiment, the mucus was grown in a labyrinth with oatmeal positioned at two points. At first, the fusarium filled almost the entire labyrinth but over time it completely crawled only along the shortest path connecting the two energy sources. It’s still unclear how unicellular mold manages to move so cleverly through the mazes.
But it seems that this is accomplished by a peculiar version of Ariadne thread. A characteristic trace of mucus that the fusarium leaves behind.
Sure one may think, how is it possible for a substance without a brain to navigate in space, to teach its relatives new skills, to decide on a diet?
Weird Creature Compose Music and Control Robots
But how does the creature manage to compose music this is beyond human understanding?
In 2012, British researchers implanted several electrodes into the bottom of the petri-dish, on which the Fusarium was grown. To remove electrical activity, they compared their acoustic frequency to each electrode and converted the received electrical signals into sound. Later the Mexican artist Leslie Garcia, co-authored an entire musical album with the Ice-serum Polycephalum, where the bizarrely growing mold was responsible for the details of the composition. In the composer himself, set the tone and rhythm periodically stimulating the slug with bright lighting that changed its behavior and electrical activity.
This creature with many superpowers also applied itself in electrical engineering. Klaus-Peter Zauner from the University of Southampton, in England together with colleagues from Kobe University in Japan developed a slime based biorobot. The Fusarium was in a container in the shape of a six pointed star and was remotely connected to a six-legged robot. The idea behind the experiment was in-tolerance of bright light which the slimeball tries to avoid by migrating to comfortable conditions. Thus the movement of the mucus caused by irritation from the light was projected onto the limbs of the robot, which was set into motion. Of course, the speed of the bio robots movements was slow but the fact remains. The robot was controlled by a unicellular creature.
How does this amazing mucus propagate?
720 Genders With No Brain
An insane number of sex cells helps keep the mucus alive like humans. It’s born from the fusion of two sex cells. However if the human species has only two genders, the mucus has 720. When looked at with our typical understanding of genders, Fusarium really has none. Mucus’s spores ability to connect is determined by 3 genes. Mat A, Mat B and Mat C, each having 16, 15 and 3 variants respectively. Multiplying we get 720 genetic species that can merge given life to A many-headed Plasmodium Fusarium.
It’s hard to believe but this unusual creature can now be seen by everyone. A unique exhibit appeared at the Paris zoo. Initially scientists grew the mucus in Petri dishes embedded with oatmeal of course. The mucus reached a certain size, it was transplanted to the bark of a tree which it began to eat. Fusarium then placed in a terrarium.
Looking at this exhibit one automatically asks the question, why has this simplest organism with unique superpowers still not subjugated the entire planet?
Will it happen that this incredible mucus will soon become the rival of men on earth?
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