|Slime mold. About 15mm tall.|
Slime molds are the 2mm-10mm organisms that city folks hate to see on their mulch.I only "discovered" these stunningly beautiful and tiny organisms (1mm-4mm is typical) recently. They look like fungi but are off in their own evolutionary corner with an alternative lifestyle which I don't completely understand. But they provide a source of nutrition for small insects and a fun photographic diversion for those lucky enough to find them.
Wikipedia defines them as "unrelated eukaryotic organisms that can live freely as single cells but can aggregate together to form multicellular reproductive structures."
I look for them on the sides of rotting logs, in leaf litter, among mosses, and in similar damp, poorly lit areas. Individually, these tiny organisms may only be 3mm tall, but a mass of a single species can be much larger — inches or even feet in width. On closer examination, I often spot one species and find several others nearby. I don't attempt to ID them, but slime molds have wonderful common names such as "dog vomit," "witch's butter," or "chocolate tube mold" (which I think is the one in the picture), as well as unintelligible scientific names.
This one is from the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, but I've seen them in Malaysia, Costa Rica, and elsewhere. They love cool, moist, shaded areas.
When there aren't many insects or amphibians, I look for them. If I put a Raynox on and get some magnification, I frequently see springtails, tiny unidentifiable nymphs, small beetles, and similar creatures wandering about among the slime mold clusters. If you look at the bottom left, there's a tiny beetle. To his right, there is a pseudoscorpion. Confession: I only noticed him when looking for a photo to post here! 😂. To see more slime molds, see the gallery on my website: https://www.jeremysquire.com/Macro-photos-of-slime-mold-Protista
Olympus OM-D E-M1ii. Lens: Zuiko 60mm. TT350 Godox flash with DIY diffuser. Species ID corrections are always welcome.