Tympanocryptis Press, September 2018. 112 pages, Octavo, paperback, colour photographs.
‘Where the Slime Mould Creeps’ introduces the fascinating world of myxomycetes, the slime moulds. It describes their intriguing life cycle and their important ecological roles as decomposers, nutrient recyclers and food for countless invertebrates. It also reveals their exquisite, evocative forms through microscope and camera.
This third edition includes additional species, names hitherto undescribed myxomycetes, and adds more time lapse images that capture the dramatic changes the plasmodia undergo as they form fruiting bodies. And it briefly notes their latest role—slime moulds have recently been used to track dark matter in the universe
Slime moulds are not slimy, nor do they look like mould; in fact, most are exquisite. Fuligo septica is an exception. This common cosmopolitan species forms amorphous yellowish blobs known variously throughout the world as ‘dog’s vomit slime’, ‘moon shit’, ‘demon droppings’ or ‘snake poo’.
Plasmodial or acellular slime moulds also known as Myxomycetes are mysterious and ubiquitous, yet few people know they exist.
One reason for this is their size. Their reproductive structures are so small that they are easily overlooked by all but a dedicated few prepared to search trees, logs, stumps and leaf litter with magnifying lens and torch.
Naturalist, writer and photographer Sarah Lloyd is perfectly located to search for myxomycetes in the tall wet eucalypt forest that surrounds her home in northern Tasmania. Her photographs of over sixty species capture the colour and variety in their miniature spore-bearing ‘fruits’. She is also ideally situated to document over hours and days some common but rarely seen events including actively feeding plasmodia (one of the two animal-like stages of a myxomycete) and the transformation of plasmodia to reproductive structures.
In the 19th century three type specimens of myxomycetes, the original specimens used by an author to describe a new species were collected from Tasmania. And even though cool temperate forests are known to be rich in myxomycetes and there have been occasional collecting trips to this remote corner of the world, it has taken a local naturalist to discover these riches and to share her passion for these ecologically important organisms.