These little round, reddish-pink balls, called wolf’s-milk slime, have certainly rolled around the scientific community. They belong to a group called slime molds, funguslike organisms once regarded as animals. Later, they were considered plants and then fungi. Now, due to DNA studies, slime molds are believed to be closer to protozoa and studied by botanists and mycologists. You can find them in large groups on dead wood between June and November. If you pop one, a pinkish-orange substance, the texture of toothpaste, will ooze out.
Wolf’s-milk slime has two life-cycle stages — plasmodium and sporangia. During the first stage, huge, single-celled amoeba go unnoticed as they creep along dead plant material, engulfing and digesting bacteria, yeasts, and fungi. At the second, more fungus like stage, spores float away to reproduce elsewhere, starting the cycle all over again.
Wolf’s-milk slime feeds on bacteria, yeasts, and fungi on decaying materials, like rotting wood. It is consumed by other organisms, such as fungi, nematodes, and small insects.
Slime molds have long-been a source of fascination and have even inspired science-fiction movies, such as The Blob in 1958.
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