Mr. Blob

A Physarum polycephalum can be seen at the Paris Zoological Park.

via. Wikimedia Commons

A Physarum polycephalum can be seen at the Paris Zoological Park.

Ever since it was discovered about 40 years ago, the blob has confused scientists. It can be found in an exhibit at the Paris Zoological Park and has been dubbed as the “blob”.

The name “blob” came from the 1958 horror B-movie where a gloopy extraterrestrial lifeform lands on Earth and devours everything. Even though the blob or Physarum polycephalum (Latin for “many-headed slime) acts like an animal and looks like a fungus, it is a bright yellow unicellular organism with millions of nuclei that lives on the forest floor. It is classified among the 900 species of slime mold which are known to be intelligent even without having a brain. Information is gathered by the slime mold spreading itself over its surroundings and information is passed through its veins.

Even with a lack of eyes and nose, the blob eats bacteria, fungal spores, and other microbes even though it lives without a stomach to digest food. It is able to move a centimeter an hour without using legs, fins, or wings and can double its size every day. 

The blob also has 720 genders. For humans, there are X and Y chromosomes that determine gender. This slime mold is different as it carries multiple genes for more combinations. However, only specific genders can mate.

In addition, the blob is able to heal itself in two minutes. The two separate parts are then able to merge back into one organism and share knowledge if their genes are compatible. Despite being almost impossible to kill, the blob has weaknesses. Caffeine, drought light, and salt all pose as enemies to the blob. However, if a slime mold is told to ignore caffeine, it can transfer this information to another clone.

Despite a lack of a nervous system, the slime mold is capable of advanced decision making, learning, as well as long-term memory storage. One experiment showed that the blob is able to find the shortest way through a maze with food located at the start and end of the mazes. As this organism leaves slime trails, it avoids areas already visited.

P. polycephalum is thought to have existed for about a billion years but caught public attention in the 1970s when it was found in a backyard in Texas. This specimen didn’t last long but people curious about this species are able to see it at the Paris Zoological Park. The organism displayed was grown in Petri dishes and then grafted onto tree bark. The purpose of this exhibit is for viewers to be introduced to a creature that is much more complex than something that resembles a yellow puddle on a piece of wood.