Originally classified in the Fungi Kingdom because of their fruiting bodies, slime molds are an informal group of eukaryotic organisms now found in the Protista Kingdom (i.e. the kitchen sink Kingdom where misfit organisms sharing traits of fungi and animals go!). They can live in a vegetative state similar to fungi or gelatinous amoebas (thus the name), but they all reproduce by spores, qualifying them as a cryptogam. Slime molds (Myxomycetes) can live as individually independent cells in moist, dark, often decaying environments but also will aggregate and feed together as a multi-nucleic plasmodium behaving as if a single organism or a giant cell (aka acellular or “true” slime mold). After enough growth, they will form into the fruiting body containing spores, which is then dispersed by wind, water, and animals. The dispersed slime mold germinates into a new plasmodium, how it spends the majority of its life cycle.

If one wants to study acellular and cellular slime molds (a much smaller group that eats bacteria and where each cell stays delimited), they are typically identified by their fruiting bodies. Fruiting bodies are collected and preserved in a dried state, usually glued inside a small box. It’s only fitting WVCAS would try to map slime mold biodiversity as one of the world’s leading experts on slime molds, Stephen Stephenson, was a professor in WV for many decades!

A soil sample containing the fruiting bodies of the Insect Egg Slime Mold (Leocarpus fragilis). The bright orange color of this species is temporary before it blends in with the soil. A microscope is typically needed to properly ID slime molds down to species.

If you want to find and grow your own slime molds, this website provides a nice description of the process:


Current scientific nomenclature can be found here:



This book note only serves as a great introduction to slime molds, but includes a dichotomous key for 175 common species. Instructions on how to construct a growth moisture chamber and preserve specimens are included.

Steven L. Stephenson and Henry Stempen. 1994. ;Myxomycetes: A Handbook of Slime Molds. Portland: Timber Press.

If you really want to get into the science or into the “weeds”, a seminal work on slime mold biology.

Richard H. Kessin. 2001. Dictyostelium: Evolution, Cell Biology, and the Development of Multicellularity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

A short, but fascinating book on the biology of cellular slime molds.

John Tyler Bonner. 2009. The Social Amoebae: The Biology of Cellular Slime Molds. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.