When Barry Webb crawls across the forest floor with a flashlight, passersby give him an understandably strange appearance. After all, the UK-based photographer is looking for something others might struggle to see: slime mold growth that’s only about a tenth of an inch high.
For scientists, the classification of slime molds has been shown to be as slippery as the name itself. Although they have been called plants, fungi, and even animals in the past, protesters coat wet and often decomposing surfaces such as dead trees, leaf litter and even dung, often as single cells. As her last act before she dies, sentient beings send fruiting bodies, which Webb captures with the camera. These increases are what attracted Webb to the slime molds in the first place. Walking with him, Webb’s wife suggested he look through his viewfinder at a funny white spot on a beech tree. “I was amazed to see these little white sausages on sticks,” he says.
This discovery prompted Webb to document more cases of ephemeral slime mold growth. Each photo consists of 30 to 100 photos he took with different focal points. When assembled, the composite shows more detail than any single snapshot can. Most of Webb’s photo specimens have been found in the woods near his home in Buckinghamshire, but some are growing on decaying tree stumps he keeps in his garden to see what might emerge. If you want to try something similar, doing so is easy — just be careful of hungry slugs, Webb warns.
Arceria cinerea: When Webb discovered this sticky mold growing on a dead apple tree, he did what researchers who have been investigating these creatures for more than a century have done. Bring bits of wood home to see what else can sprout.
Crebraria aurantiaca Fruiting bodies growing. slime molds like c. Aurantiaca Always occupy fresh patches of damp tree trunks or other surfaces. Organisms leave remnants behind as they roam, avoiding places that are already strewn with streaks.
Crebraria aurantiaca After the fruits ripen. Although the photo shows a specimen different from the one above, this is later, a drier stage can develop within a day for some species.
member of the sex Kumatrica which dried after the dispersal of its spores. In its early mobile stage of life, the search for moisture, nutrients, and tasty bacteria can take sticky mold to any suitable place to live, even animal dung.
Comatricha nigra Push one fruit body. Slime molds like those in sex Kumatrica Find the perfect place to settle by wandering through the pseudopods – cellular extensions that project forward until the rest of the hive fuses around them.
Comatricha nigra It grows on a fallen beech log before the parasites release their spores. Before breeding, some slime molds expand to be several feet wide, a phenomenon Webb encountered in the woods.
Various assembly Badhamia utricularis Slime molds move through their life cycle. on the far left, B. Utricularis It is still a moving creature that feeds. It eventually generates distinctive and unusually large hanging spores, which mature into fruiting bodies (Center) and then finally dry once the spores are dispersed (far right).
Vysarum leucophaeum On the edge of a sheet of beech wood. These slime molds solve problems admirably. Researchers have dropped other members of the sex Visarum In the mazes and watch them find the shortest path through it. These organisms inspired a sticky mold algorithm that researchers have published to map the filaments of dark matter connecting galaxies throughout the universe.
fruiting bodies Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa. These species resemble miniature white corals, usually appearing in groups and presenting individual spores on the surface of each tendril.