We usually think of mold as a nuisance that crops up in all sorts of inconvenient places, like week-old bread. Yet God created mold to serve a crucial role in His world: to seek out and consume decaying matter.
Consider the amazing “seek-and-consume” ability of one common mold, Physarum polycephalum, found in the woods. You may have seen its red-orange-yellow color on a fallen tree or mulch pile.
This mold sometimes appears almost overnight. It consists of a group of tiny, single-celled amoebae, which have both plant and animal characteristics. Also called slime molds or social amoebas, they are very different from the mold found on old bread.
The variety that eats decaying wood seeks food by sending out thin strands in various directions. When a nutrient is located, tendrils with the shortest and most efficient path thicken, while other unsuccessful branches pull back.
Scientists wanted to test just how efficient this single-celled, mindless mold is at hunting bits of decaying wood, and they were amazed by what they found. Researchers had found that wood mold can successfully navigate a maze from one food source to another. To test the limits of their foraging ability, Japanese and British researchers created another test.