Watch this slime-mold Santa beard grow into a ho-ho-horror

Meet Slime Santa. Not as cuddly as regular Santa.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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This slime mold is getting into the holiday spirit.

Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

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." 

Slime molds are strange things. 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. 

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