what is slime mold?
Scientists and scientific illustrators have been asking that for centuries. Though they reproduce by spores, slime molds --or myxomycetes in Latin-- are not actually fungi, which means they definitely aren't mold. And though they move like robotic animals, 'remembering' where they've been and always taking the best possible route to food, they aren't those either. Since the 90's they've been considered members of the Protist kingdom, along with lots of other hard-to-classify one-celled things.
The slime mold life cycle is like no other. They emerge from spores to become a giant, one-celled, multi-nucleate blob called a 'plasmodium'. Hungry for bacteria, young plasmodia pulse through detritus like rotting logs and leaves. When they've had their fill, they 'fruit' into the millimeter-tall spore-filled reproductive structures seen in my illustrations.
Illustrations of cosmopolitan slime molds
I illustrated many of the world’s most common slime molds for Stephenson Lab at the University of Arkansas. At Dr. Steven L. Stephenson's lab, researchers study slime mold ecology (their role in the ecosystem) and potential uses of the fatty, fast-growing organisms for things like bioremediation and bio-computing. Each illustration shows a species at around 40x its actual size.
In order to fund these illustrations I made a Kickstarter. This 'documentary' of a day in the life of a traveling slime mold saleslady was part of that project.