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Scientists find astounding slime mold trapped in amber for 100 million years

There's a lizard leg for scale.

The slime mold is pointed out by an arrow at the upper left above the lizard leg.

Alexander Schmidt, University of Göttingen and Scientific Reports

We've already marveled at a millipede, tick, snail, spider with a tail and even mold pigs trapped in ancient amber. Now we can add a lovely little slime mold to the list of preserved wonders. 

Scientists from the University of Gottingen, University of Helsinki and the American Museum of Natural History discovered the oldest known slime mold encased in 100-million-year-old Myanmar tree resin along with a lizard leg. The team recently published its findings in the journal Scientific Reports

Microorganism-munching slime molds (also known as a myxomycetes) are single-celled organisms. The University of Gottingen said "they can join together to form complex, beautiful and delicate fruiting bodies, which serve to make and spread spores." It's those bodies that are on display in the amber.

A close-up look at the slime mold fruiting body.

Alexander Schmidt, University of Göttingen and Scientific Reports

"The fragile fruiting bodies were most likely torn from the tree bark by a lizard, which was also caught in the sticky tree resin, and finally embedded in it together with the reptile," said botanist Jouko Rikkinen from the University of Helsinki.   

This is an extremely rare find. The researchers only know of two other confirmed fossilized slime mold fruiting bodies, and they are considerably younger. This much older example is helping scientists learn more about the history and evolution of slime molds. It even matches a known genus of slime mold still in existence today.  

If you want to know what slime molds have been up to in more recent history, check out "The Blob," a nightmare slime at the Paris Zoo, and also this bizarre Santa-beard slime mold. They're weird, but surprisingly charming.

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