The common name of myxomycetes that star in this WDR documentary is “slime moulds”, which conjures up images of an organism that is anything but fascinating. Yet myxomycetes have many secrets to reveal regarding their peculiar lifestyle, halfway between animals and fungi. Although they may measure up to several centimetres, they are unicellular organisms that nourish themselves via phagocytosis (unlike true fungi). They grow in the soil or on rotting wood and extend their filaments to bring in nutrients. When two slime moulds meet, they blend into each other and act as a single organism, a trait that makes us associate them with some terrifying outer space monster. They reproduce by forming delicately structured plant-like fruiting bodies and spread their microscopic spores with the help of the wind or the creepy crawlers that feed on them. The spores are capable of travelling for miles and have colonized every continent. In Japan especially, slime mould hunting is a bona fide hobby, one that even caught on with Emperor Hirohito, who discovered a new mould species. The time-lapse images of the growth of the animal-fungi add a spectacular touch to this documentary.
Prix “Imagerie Scientifique” at the festival Image et Science 2003