Slime Molds Take Over the Globe


By traveling from city to city on a map, microscopic protists known as slime molds have figured out how to take over the world. 

Starting in Beijing, the slime mold Physarum polycephalum developed a well-organized network for global domination that mimicked historic trade routes like Asia’s Silk Road. The work, carried out by computer scientist Andrew Adamatzky from the University of the West of England, was published on arxiv on Sept. 18. 

“The main idea of these experiments was to satisfy my curiosity — what would happen if the Chinese decided to “expand” their country and colonize the world,” wrote Adamatzky in an e-mail to Wired.

Much like an ant colony searching for food, slime molds send out tiny feeler tubes in different directions. When one limb happens upon a food source, it spreads over it, secreting digestive enzymes to consume its find. In this way, the mold creates a network for transporting nutrients and chemicals for intercellular communication.

Despite having no brains, slime molds are clever creatures, capable of solving mazes, modeling cancer growth, and even packing bacteria away in their released spores as to-go snacks. One of the most popular recent tricks that researchers have them do is spread between food sources representing different cities, often creating efficient networks that mimic real-world transportation systems.

Written By: Adam Mann
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  1. …taking over Tokyo

    Wow, it managed to beat Godzilla and Monster Zero, even sans cool sound effects?!

    I remember reading about a strip mall or house or something that was denied construction permits as there was an uncommom slime mold in residence.  Slime mold has “rights” too!

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