102 pages, colour photos
Slime moulds are not slimy, nor do they look like mould; in fact, most are exquisite. Fuligo septica is an exception. This common cosmopolitan species forms amorphous yellowish blobs known variously throughout the world as "dog's vomit slime", "moon shit", "demon droppings"; or "snake poo". Plasmodial or acellular slime moulds – also known as Myxomycetes – are mysterious and ubiquitous, yet few people know they exist. One reason for this is their size. Their reproductive structures are so small that they are easily overlooked by all but a dedicated few prepared to search trees, logs, stumps and leaf litter with magnifying lens and torch.
Naturalist, writer and photographer Sarah Lloyd is perfectly located to search for myxomycetes in the tall wet eucalypt forest that surrounds her home in northern Tasmania. Her photographs of over sixty species capture the colour and variety in their miniature spore-bearing "fruits". She is also ideally situated to document over hours and days some common but rarely seen events including actively feeding plasmodia (one of the two animal-like stages of a myxomycete) and the transformation of plasmodia to reproductive structures.
In the 19th century three type specimens of myxomycetes – the original specimens used by an author to describe a new species – were collected from Tasmania. And even though cool temperate forests are known to be rich in myxomycetes and there have been occasional collecting trips to this remote corner of the world, it has taken a local naturalist to discover these riches and to share her passion for these ecologically important organisms.
"It is easy to overlook slime moulds – they tend to be tiny, evanescent and found in dark and damp places. Yet they can be extraordinarily beautiful. Sarah Lloyd, a naturalist, writer and photographer from northern Tasmania, has produced a wonderful book that explores this fascinating group of organisms. [...] Identification of slime moulds usually requires the use of a microscope to determine the size, shape and ornamentation of the spores and capillitia. Descriptions of the species are not included and only occasionally are the microscopic characters displayed. However, the images (many photographed with the aid of a microscope) are vivid and attractive. They portray the fine detail and beauty of the specimens and are representative of the species. [...] Sarah's writing style is clear, informative and entertaining. Her enthusiasm for her subject is obvious and the reader is brought along in this journey of discovery and appreciation. An interesting and effective device is the inclusion of many scholarly quotations and references dotted throughout the book. These fascinating anecdotal snippets are often offered without comment. They inform and illuminate the topic. The book can be read from cover to cover, but one can just as easily open a page almost at random and dip in to find an interesting fact or a beautiful image. This is not simply a reference book, or even a field guide, although I suspect many readers will use it as such. I think it is more inspirational. The reader is drawn into this fascinating and beautiful world and invited to explore it further. [...]"
- Paul George, Fungimap Newsletter #53
"Slime moulds would have to rank amongst the most obscure of the common forms of life on earth. Although widely prevalent in most parts of the habitable world they are rarely seen by other than the initiated, and few ever recognize what may be before their very eyes. The best explanation for this ignorance is the paucity of literature for the beginner. Apart from a short section on myxomycetes in Fuhrer's fungi book the rest of the available literature is highly technical and forbidding. There has been no widely available hand-held guide available for a complete novice to understand slime moulds. Lloyd is to be commended for filling this vacuum by publishing what is hoped to be the first of her books on myxomycetes. [...]"
- Tom Thekathyil, The Natural News #59, newsletter of the Central North Field Naturalists
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