Field of Science

What's this? A favorite question.

TPP's old friend Dr. Chips has a keen eye, something necessary when you look for bryophytes and lichens.  But often when you look closely and carefully, you'll see things you didn't expect and may not know.  In Dr. Chips case, this isn't often, but here we go.  Here's the images of what TPP received this morning from out west in Washington state.
This is actually a fairly common and cosmopolitan organism, but you have to notice it.  These are actually the reproductive structures, not the actual organism itself. When pink like this they have a sort of creamy center, and perhaps this is the origin of the common name "wolf's milk".  The organism is Lycogala epidendrum, and it's been a few years since TPP has seen it, but it is quite singular in its appearance.  The organism that makes these sporangia is a plasmodial slime mold (or mould for my proper readers). Dr. Chips knows what this means, but for others, this organism is a T. rex of the microbial world, a "giant" amoeboid blob consuming any microorganism in its path.  Under certain conditions the plasmodium transform from a mass of cytoplasm into sporangia, and usually only these reproductive structures are seen.  And this is why Dr. Chips contacts TPP; he IDelivers, mostly! 

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