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Myxomycete Plasmodia and Fruiting Bodies:
Unusual Occurrences and User-friendly Study Techniques
Harold W. Keller,*1 Courtney M. Kilgore, Sydney E. Everhart, Glenda J. Carmack,
Christopher D. Crabtree, and Angela R. Scarborough
Department of Biology, University of Central Missouri,Warrensburg, Missouri 64093
Plasmodia, sclerotia, and fruiting bodies are stages in the myxomycetelife cycle that are easiest to recognize in the field. These
stages can be found on different substrata such as living and dead
plants and animals on the forest floor and in the canopy on bark
of living trees and vines. This paper describes unusual habitats of
myxomycetes on living lizards, mammal skulls, spiders, on other
myxomycetes and fungi, and provides additional information
needed tocollect and identify these fascinating protists.The complete myxomycete life cycle is illustrated in detail, including
trophic stages (myxamoebae, swarm cells, and plasmodia), and
dormant stages (spores, microcysts, sclerotia, and fruiting bodies). Techniques are described that involve the collection and
identification of myxomycetes through the use of moist chamber
cultures, harvestingspecimens, and slide preparation tips, all of
which can be done at home given the proper materials. Studio
photographic techniques are described that illustrate larger specimens, for example, the evidence of plasmodial tracks on a dog
and deer skull. Moist chamber cultures are miniature “gardens”
that may have life forms such as cyanobacteria, lichens, leafy liverworts, mosses, mushrooms, myxomycetes,colorful
myxobacteria, nematodes, tardigrades, insects, and arachnids.The
culture methods described here were used by school children
for research projects, scientific professionals in research laboratories, and amateur hobbyists in their homes.

of June to September in central and southeastern United States of
America (Keller and Braun, 1999).
The myxomycete life cycle is shown in Figure 1(A–N). Two
myxomycete life cycle stages that reach size dimensions large
enough to be seen with the unaided eye are the plasmodia (J, L)
and fruiting bodies (N). The fruiting body contains the spores (A)
and serves as the reproductive unit of the myxomycete life cycle.
Spores are a dormant stage, usually visible as a powdery mass,
disseminated by wind, and less often by insects, raindrops,or
through hygroscopic and drying action of capillitial threads. Individual spores range in size from 5 to 20µm in diameter and are
haploid with one set of chromosomes. Spores germinate (B) and
produce one of two types of sexual gametes, myxamoebae (C) or
swarm cells (D), which mate with other gametes that are sexually compatible.

Key words: Daniel Boone National Forest, fruiting bodies,handcrafted tools, Kentucky, mammal skulls, Missouri, moist
chamber cultures, myxomycetes, Pertle Springs, photography,
plasmodia, plasmodial tracks, sclerotia, slide preparation tips, tree
canopy, Warrensburg Middle School
Myxomycetes typically are collected as fruiting bodies and plasmodia on decaying logs or leaf litter during the warmer and wetter months of the year. Generallythis occurs during the months
Figure 1. Freehand drawing of Physarum viride stalked sporangia. Illustration by Angela R. Scarborough.

* Corresponding author: or haroldkeller@hotmail.com1
and Botanical Research Institute of Texas



Volume 1:1 Spring 2008

The myxamoeba is amorphous, divides by mitosis (E), and
(Fig. 9a,b) and deer (Fig. 9c,d), and stalkedsporangia on a squirgives rise to a population of cells capable of changing shape as
rel skull (Fig. 10a-c). Special photographic techniques were used
they move across the substratum feeding on bacteria and other
to create digital images of the skulls (Fig. 5). Unusual patterns of
microorganisms. Swarm cells do not divide by mitosis and have
plasmodial migration and formation of fruiting...
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