Monday, 16 November 2009

Monday 16th November 09

Up early, not sure why, had a lot going through my mind.

Immediately after breakfast I rang CVS to discuss whether a volunteer has any protection when it comes to disability discrimination. They don't, not in the same way as an employee. But organisations do often have equal opportunities statements and this might be a way to ask them to acknowledge the unusual and possibly challenging behaviour that people on the autism spectrum might display. And not to just acknowledge it, but to make what they do as accessible as possible.

And whilst on the subject of disability awareness, I'd like to invite readers to take a few more minutes to watch parts one and two of this film, 'Talk', from the Disability Rights Commission.


I find these very moving and educational, and I'm grateful to my friend Mark Hallam for alerting me to this.

Today I had no appointments or meetings (well I could have gone to two in the evening but I chose not to) so I had a good day doing things in the garden, including some runner bean picking, compost heap piling, log splitting and stacking.

When I was looking for somewhere to put a sack full of greengrocers waste, sorry, resources, I had a look into my fabric compost bin, which was pretty well rotted down. On the top surface, to one side, there were three brown hand-sized spongy blobs... they really did look like bathroom sponges. I've never seen anything like them before. I took one of them off the surface of the compost and took it inside to take some photos.

This is the sponge sitting on a potato sack, the top side.

This is the underside... note a partially rotted tomato skin and grape twigs.

This is the same organism in my hand, to show scale.

So, what is it? Well I believe this is a 'slime mold' which is fairly closely related to fungi, but it's different. It has a really interesting life cycle. It starts as a spore, which germinates and becomes a single celled organism, maybe similar to a bacterium or amoeba. It is motile, ie it can move around. Then, due to some environmental cue, these single celled organisms club together in groups, and start to behave like a multicellular organism, somewhat like a slug. Some cells become the foot, some the front end, etc. They don't develop a mouth or gut though. What happens next is that it settles and starts to grow into what looks more like a fungus, with surfaces or specific parts where sexual reproduction takes place, releasing spores like a fungus. These disperse and become the next generation. So, unless I'm told something different, this is what I think this thing is. Apologies for the poor quality of the photos, Gill's camera isn't designed for close-ups.

I had a quiet evening, watched some TV with the children and prepared a load of bananas and melon for drying. Enjoyed the 3D films on Channel 4.


Anonymous said...


Looks like some kind of coral to me. Perhaps your heaps are too wet!!


PS Just had a sudden flashback of that '50s B-movie - "The Blob"!

Anonymous said...

Slime mould - what a blast from the past. I studied it at school, in theory, because it does have such an interesting life cycle. My text book only had a basic drawing.
However I have never seen any, not that I have looked very hard. I will keep my eyes open now.
Thanks so much for putting the pictures up.
Take care