Slime moulds: 18 fantastic photos of the puzzle-solvers without a brain © Andy Sands/NPL

Slime moulds: 18 other-worldly photos of the puzzle-solvers without a brain

Meet the brainless organisms that can think, solve problems and reveal the secrets of the Universe.

These magnificent creatures may not be the next Einstein, but they are much smarter than they look. Slime moulds can navigate mazes to find food, farm bacteria and even learn from their mistakes.

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Slime moulds spend much of their life as a microscopic organism, too small to be seen by the naked eye. But when they’re ready to reproduce, they grow rapidly and produce ‘sporangia’, fruiting bodies which release spores.

Fossils tell us that these bizarre creatures have existed relatively unchanged for more than 100 million years, and they play a vital part in ecosystems. Without slime moulds, the world’s soils and forests would become overrun with bacteria in a matter of days.

Take a look at these amazing images of slime moulds in their reproductive phase, all captured by UK-based photographer Andy Sands.

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Physarum polycephalum

Physarum polycephalum on the move as a single super-cell © Andy Sands/NPL
© Andy Sands/NPL

Comatricha nigra

Comatricha nigra in reproductive phase. Close-up of single fruiting body (sporangium), bearing thousands of spores © Andy Sands/NPL
© Andy Sands/NPL

Metatrichia floriformis

Metatrichia floriformis in reproductive phase. Close-up of spore-bearing fruiting bodies (sporangia) © Andy Sands/NPL
© Andy Sands/NPL

Badhamia affinis

Badhamia affinis in reproductive phase. Close-up of spore-bearing fruiting bodies (sporangia) © Andy Sands/NPL
© Andy Sands/NPL

Arcyria cinerea

Arcyria cinerea in mature reproductive phase. Close-up of erupted fruiting bodies (sporangia), bearing thousands of spores © Andy Sands/NPL
© Andy Sands/NPL

Metatrichia floriformis

Metatrichia floriformis in mature reproductive phase. Close-up of erupted fruiting bodies (sporangia), each bearing thousands of spores © Andy Sands
© Andy Sands

Tubifera ferruginosa

Tubifera ferruginosa in reproductive phase. Close-up of massed fruiting bodies (sporangia), bearing thousands of spores © Andy Sands/NPL
© Andy Sands/NPL

Trichia decipiens

Trichia decipiens in reproductive phase. Close-up of spore-bearing fruiting bodies (sporangia) © Andy Sands/NPL
© Andy Sands/NPL

Comatricha fragilis

Comatricha fragilis in reproductive phase. Close-up of spore-bearing fruiting bodies (sporangia) © Andy Sands/NPL
© Andy Sands/NPL

Badhamia utricularis

Badhamia utricularis in reproductive phase. Close-up of maturing fruiting bodies (sporangia), each bearing thousands of spores © Andy Sands/NPL
© Andy Sands/NPL

Fuligo septica (Dog vomit slime)

Dog vomit slime mould (Fuligo septica) on dead wood © Andy Sands/NPL
© Andy Sands/NPL

Arcyria cinerea

Arcyria cinerea in reproductive phase. Close-up of young fruiting bodies (sporangia), bearing thousands of spores © Andy Sands/NPL
© Andy Sands/NPL

Enteridium lycoperdon (False puffball)

The false puffball (Enteridium lycoperdon) is a common species found in the UK. It can be seen in its reproductive phase as a white swelling on dead trees © Andy Sands/NPL
© Andy Sands/NPL

Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa

Close-up of the massed fruiting bodies (sporangia) of Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa © Andy Sands/NPL
© Andy Sands/NPL

Arcyria denudata

Arcyria denudata in its reproductive phase. Without slime moulds, the world’s soils and forests would become overrun with bacteria in a matter of days © Andy Sands/NPL
© Andy Sands/NPL

Arcyria ferruginea

Arcyria ferruginea in its reproductive phase. Fossils tell us that slime moulds have existed relatively unchanged for more than 100 million years © Andy Sands/NPL
© Andy Sands/NPL

Physarum album

Physarum album in its reproductive phase, with sporangia © Andy Sands/NPL
© Andy Sands/NPL

Metatrichia floriformis

The shiny, fruiting bodies of Metatrichia floriformis look like tiny berries © Andy Sands/NPL
© Andy Sands/NPL