The Slime Mould Collective

An international network of/for intelligent organisms

was thinking about Ian's post on biosecurity and not spreading Carolina worldwide, and the easiest option I could think of was to find my own local slime.

The moist chamber method of Myxomycetes, Stephenson and Stempen was adapted, and Ian's guidance that absolutely nothing needs to be sterile was adopted.

Three sampling locations were used - woodchip+bark in my flowerbed, a scraping from the bottom of the compost heap, and 4 postage stamp sized pieces of bark prised off the London Plane tree outside my house. I sampled the north side of the tree as it is slightly damper, mossier and licheny so I expected more habitat. It was also conveniently AND SAFELY available from the pavement.

Conatainers were plastic trays from supermarket deliveries, these had already been washed and left in the recyling bin for a few days so were well aired, and any residual antibacterial coating in them hopefully expired. Example below.Tesco Finest Oyster Mushroom Cluster 150G

I folded a thick kitchen paper towel in thirds and placed in the tray. This was so it fit in the narrow dimension but stuck up at both ends so I can lift the whole thing out if needed. Samples were placed evenly, and enough water added to flood the paper and samples. Wood floats, so don't bother trying to cover them completely :)
The three trays were left under a black upturned flower pot on a shelf in my shed. After the first day I drained the excess water off, trying not to drop the samples as I did so. Temperature the last few days has been about 20 degrees , fairly rainy and humid.

As Stephenson predicted, the bark from a living tree has produced the best results - Three days after starting I have an obvious dark grey slime mould network across the tissue paper. Rather than wait for a full spore cycle I have poured a handful of oats on it and hope to grow into Ian's Cowpat method. This careless approach is partly because of how easy it was to find first time, and partly because I want a slime mould that likes oats, it will make experiments easier.

I also have some stranger growths that are probably fungi in the other trays, which is fun.

Result images:

money shot: early trade networks between Moss Island and Bark Isle mapped by a yet unidentified slime mould:

something peachy, no idea what, growing on the apricot stone

Fluffly white growing in the end grain of both twigs - almost definetly a fungus

Moss and 'white lichen', lichen that has lost or purged it's algae, or fungus?

I will keep checking all three and see if any others emerge.
edit: links updated

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Interesting choice on the mushroom tub pic from the biosecurity point - oysters make huge numbers of spores and are now loose worldwide because of supermarkets! The last three images are just the peachstone for me.

Nice find.  I'd subculture your slime as soon as possible.

On the feeding front, my experience with Mandy and Zombie suggest a few oats widely scattered might be the way to start feeding, it gives the slime options for moving away from contamination, Zombie never took to heavy feeding but Mandy can be gradually ramped up ( I wonder how much of that is changes in metagenome ). 

links updated, and I am cringing so hard over oyster mushrooms. The thought never even occurred to me!

Seven days later:

the compost scraping tray shows evidence of a very small, brown slime, possibly a fungus.

The origional dark grey one is going great guns, is possibly duplic...
Any other suggestions to feed a bark dweller?

the tray where I tried to subculture the grey one, has developed it's own completely different white slime! The oat with the grey on it has shown no change, and the white has appeared several cm away.
Perhaps it came off spores in the air, my fingers or the oats?  There is a dim chance they are the same species, one dyed by the bark, one by the white in the tissue paper? A sort of adaptive camouflage to adopt the same color as your food? 

So I have a visible dark grey slime, but I'm unsure what it eats. I have a white slime that is easy to feed, but will be hard to do photograph mapping experiments with unless I dye it?

more research needed. 

The white oat eater accidentally dried out and formed sclerotia. I am not sure why it dired out faster than the other trays - I can only assume there was less water!
Photo taken before dissection. I've split the scelortium into 4 by cutting and tearing the paper, and brushing the oats off. Two of the four have been stored in an envelope, the other two are starting off their own trays.

I've not been able to find much on what a bark dweller might eat. 

The dark grey mystery continues to expand. It seems to not care much about oats, but is interfacing with an area where the oats are dissolving into goo. I don't know if it is digesting them, or feeding on a bacteria that is feeding on the oats.
More out of hope than anything, I've scraped a section away from the food up. The wet tissuepaper separates into layers very easily, so scraping a section is far easier then cutting. I've started that sample in a new tray. We'll see how well it does away from moss, lichen, bark and wood.

What do they smell like? I've gotten hints of wintergreen of some, and butyric acid :( off another.

I moved my white slime to unbleached sugar paper - it's rough and grey, I think it's more transparent than white but it's easier to spot against the texture of the paper. 

You could try your bark dweller on lichen and mushrooms. There's a spice called black stone flower that's a lichen, I bought a bag for cooking but physarum and 'Mandy' go nuts for it 

stranger and stranger - 

A second white slime has appeared, on oats scattered in the tray for one of the scelerotia.  It looks like my porridge oats must be contaminated with spores. Anyone else trying this might need to do a tray or two of just ten oats as a control.  Given I wanted a local slime, this white one does not count.

Still, I've 3d printed a small maze based on the nagasaki paper, and I've moved this new third slime into start position for it, lets see if it solves it. The maze is baseless and just sits on the wet tissue. I would give a 50/50 chance the shortest route is under, not around, but all of the growths I've seen so far have firmly stayed on the paper surface, so we shall see.

The original tray with the grey mystery in had maggots moving in the dissolved goop section, so i've place entire tray outside on a hot sunny day, hoping to trigger sporification and potential identification. After 8 hours in the sun, the maggots have tried to crawl away. the moss on the wood smaples has perked up a bit and gone green. Absolutely no movement visible on the dark grey slime.

It might be blind, it might be leaving a visible trail but retreating itself, or maybe it's roots of the moss and I've been wrong all along?

ecdit: smell? putrid.


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