Unidentified Slime Mold - Hours Of Work Has Gotten Me Nowhere - Help!
I Have never been more confused than I am right now.
I recently took an interest in myxomycetes when I found my first naturally occuring specimens while on a winter mushroom hunt. These turned out to be M.vesparium and . . . something else that was less well defined.
I then bought a book on the topic - Stephenson and Stempen's Myxomycetes A Handbook of Slime Molds - and learned that you could grow these organisms in moist chambers. So I bought a bunch of petri dishes, took a sample of bark from a nearby Sycamore tree, and set up the experiment.
The tree is is New York City, the bark pulled off about three or four weeks ago.
Some time went by, and the entire piece of wood became covered in a white fuzz, like this.
I considered that it might be plasmodium, but disregarded it as unlikely given the fuzzy texture and non-slimyness.
So I chalked it up to some kind of more conventional, non-plasmodial mold, and waited.
And waited. For several weeks, checking it once in awhile with the naked eye, waiting for some extraordinary yellow mass to form.
But, lo, form it did not. And last week I basically got ready to toss it. But then I decided to go over it once with my hand lens...
And my mind was blown.
It was covered with life!
Small black splotches of life, and tiny - really sub-millimeter structures along the edges of the piece of wood.
But they were SO small that I could scarcesely make them out with any detail whatsoever, even with my 40x hand lens. Moreover, they were small enough that I'd never be able to get them under my compound scope without breaking them - but big enough that I wouldn't see much external structural detail.
So I decided to get a stereoscopic dissecting microscope.
That arrived, and using a 3MP microscopic camera, and liberal applications of stacking, I just finished spending last four hours putting together the best shots of these things up close that I could come up with.
I know the quality of these is not great, nor the detail. I am determined now to get a good macro photographic set up going. But I think these photos do illuminate the structures, hopefully sufficiently for someone to identify the organism. I don't have exact measurements yet, but they are all under 1mm in size.
I then harvested some of the material and put it under my compound scope.
Unfortunately, the compound is of very poor quality and need to be updated. It can be trusted only for broad scope structures and accurate microscopic sizing. But color and minute microscopic details are not assured.
Does anyone have any idea what the heck these things are?
And more importantly, does anyone have a more comprehensive resource they could recommend, that is actually purchasable, that might assist in identifying slime molds more readily?
The handbook is a good introduction, but the actual "field guide" portion is lacking. It is in black and white and mostly hand drawn images.
I appreciate anyone who takes the time to consider this question. Perhaps it will be super straightforward to the more knowledgeable eye. Or perhaps my techniques and resources in gathering information are so wanting as to make an ID implausible.
I will continue to try to enhance both - but in the meantime appreciate anyone's input. I thought that I would at least have some basic details to use as reference points in ID'ing this thing, but somehow I find myself utterly confounded.
I am not even sure what I'm looking at, structurally. I now think the white fuzz was a kind of plasmodium, though I don't understand what - is this a cellular slime mold?
In terms of the actual structure of the sporangium, I see that some are stalked, some are sessile looking, with the difference being whether growing on top of or the side of the log. I also see that those black dots appear to be falling off independently - but then under the microscope, it seems that the dots themselves are very large spores?! Or do they each contain several spores? I think I see capillitium in the spore mass, on the edges, but I have no idea if there are lime deposits, because the book I'm using is in black and white and blurry.