tirsdag den 22. januar 2013

Slime mold in the Aquarium

Hello all,
I recently told the story of my experiences with marine fungus growing on a Red Moore root. This reminded me of another crazy visitor to my fishtanks (I sound like an old sailor...).
When I initially set up the large aquarium, I saw something weird after a few weeks.

After searching the net hard and far, it turns out that this visitor was not an algae or similar (which I initially thought) but a type of marine slime mold.
Apparently these are something of a mystery to everyone, but shouldn't harm the aquarium in any way. 

 Now, unfortunately for the average non-marine biologist, information on these weird growths are very difficult to get hold of. But they are neither plants, mushrooms, or alage. Instead they are thir own little box, of unrelated but similar beings, halfway between fungi and snail-like creatures. The various types of slime molds can be seen here on this thourough German homepage: http://www.schleimpilz-liz.de/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=26&Itemid=48&lang=de (that states it describes 'Die fabelhafte Welt der Schleimpilze' :-)). Schleimpilze, I guess that translates into Slime-sausages....
Oh, and they move. Each morning the thing would have shifted across the aquarium to a new location. Quite fascinating!
I had, through a friend who is a marine biologist, set up a meeting with a Dane who happens to know something about these molds, but it took so long that the thing had disappeared by then. I have not seen it in over a year, and I fear it died or was sucked into the pump or something similar.

Shame, I would have loved to find out which type it was.

Slime molds are best known from the study that proved that a single species might have casued ill-effects on Eel Grass (i.e. "Labyrinthula sp., a marine slime mold producing the symptoms of wasting disease in eelgrass, Zostera marina", by Muehlstein, Porter, & Short), a study that is available online (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF00392553?LI=true).

According to their abstract they state that "Coastal ecosystems along the eastern United States are presently threatened by a recurrence of the wasting disease of eelgrass, Zostera marina L. Using Koch's postulates, a species of the marine slime mold, Labyrinthula, is identified as the causal microorganism of this disease. Our disease tests for pathogenicity performed on eelgrass, using four Labyrinthula spp., indicate only one species produces the disease symptoms identical to those found associated with the wasting disease. The pathogenic Labyrinthula sp. has morphological characteristics that distinguish it from the other three species. Identification of Labyrinthula spp. is difficult because species described in the literature are not clearly characterized or identifiable. Tests at various salinities demonstrate that disease symptoms appear infrequently at salinities of 10%. or less."

 Also these videos by Princeton's John Bonner show just how amazing slime molds are:

 Cool stuff!

All the best,

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