Most people hang string lights and decorate trees to celebrate Christmas. A technician at the University of Warwick in the UK grew a slime-mold Santa beard instead. That's festive, too, I guess. The university shared the jolly news on Tuesday with this eye-catching headline: "Slime Santa beard likes hot peppers."
. They're single-celled organisms that grow in dark places in the wild, but are used for cancer research in laboratories.
Slime-mold enthusiast Ian Hands-Portman captured the mold's two-day growth process in a timelapse video. Fortunately, the experiment involved a fake Santa, not a human volunteer. The footage shows the yellow-ish slime mold expanding across a Santa figure's face. The lumpy stuff is the slime mold's food: oats.
Researchers have discovered that slime molds, which eat bacteria and fungi in the wild, are partial to oats and hot peppers in the lab, but they don't like chocolate.
"Having kept them for 10 years you can learn so much about them, from what food they like, to the ability to grow them in all shapes and sizes you want -- such as Santa's slimey beard!" said Hands-Portman, who described the creatures as "weird and wonderful in the world of science."
Forget visions of sugar plums. This year, it's all about the slime molds.