Two Weeks in the life of one Fuligo septica in Pictures
A lovely giant amoeba the color of dog vomit appeared upon the edge of our front steps one day in May 2015. I shared a home in the Latona-Tangletown area of Greater Green Lake, a network of neighborhoods in the northern half of Seattle, back in those days. Each one of my three daughters thought this mxyamoeba was gross, gross, and, oh, so gross!
“Meet Bobby Sue,” I announced. “It’s a slime mold!”
“Eeeeeeeewuh!” Kate, my middle child, declared with a grimace.
“Looks like dog puke!” Talia noted as she pretended to be frank and unperturbed.
“Not looking at it!” said Morgan as she hurried past the creature.
I was fascinated by Bobby Sue, however, and have been with slime molds since a boy. During my youth I lived mostly in Virginia and spent a lot of time in the Carolinas. I would discover these strange, pulsating blobs of colorful protoplasm oozing across the big pile of sawdust next to the cowbarn on the farm or dripping slowly from logs rotting in the woods. They appeared upon grassy lawns the morning after a heavy rain. In a day or two these myxamoebae would be further along as slowly quivering blobs.
At least twice back when I was a young boy I kept a slime mold for a pet. Intuitively I gave them mixed-gender names such as Henry Ann. They thrived inside my Daddy’s used cardboard cigar boxes upon a diet of mulch mixed from barnyard sawdust, old leaves, and grass clippings. Eventually they would dry up, form weird little tentacles with eyeball-like sacs at their tips, and seemingly die. Found out they were morphing from large moving protoplasmic multi-nuclei cells into spore stalks.
Many years later I discovered slime molds had not only been recategorized more than once between different kingdoms and phyla of life, but also had several hundred genders and thousands, possibly tens of thousands of different sexes. They exhibited remarkable intelligence for not having any recognizable brain or nervous system. Slime molds taunted clade-obsessed biologists with a mixed multitude of traits clearly recognizable as belonging to animals, or to plants, or to fungi, or to protists and even bacteria, but without a clear preponderance to place them cleanly into one particular classification of life. Indeed, the term, “slime mold” is itself an umbrella for at least two if not more distinctly different kinds of such organisms.
This giant amoeboid lasted another 3 or 4 days before the landlord grew tired of what resembled a dry, dusty cow patty of bovine manure upon his steps. He scraped & washed it off. Bobby Sue, however, had already reproduced. Life finds a way to live no matter the conditions. Aye, Life finds a way. I stare at the remains of Bobby Sue and contemplate the bizarre course of evolution upon our planet. Ultimately we are all related, descended from the same primordial protocellular microorganisms. My three daughters are distant relatives of Bobby Sue as am I. Life will hide its origins as it unfolds out of light and chemicals and electromagnetism across the rumpling and smoothing of spacetime as it searches for entryways into timespace.
At the end of this late Spring day in Spacetime, however, the Sun slid down the Western Sky and set behind the Olympic Mountains beyond the Salish Sea. The Sun would rise again in the East upon the morrow as it climbed up higher than the Cascades. No matter. Life found a way. Life lives to live.
William Dudley Bass
Sat 21 Oct – Mon 27 Nov 2017
Copyright © 2017 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.