"The slime mould is an amoeba which lives on bacteria found among the
decaying leaves in forests. It mutiplies by simple cell division every
few hours. This leads to recurrent population explosions accompanied
by shortage of food. When threatened by famine, the amoeba "commence
the enactment of an incredible series of activities. These activities
are a literal metaphor for the organization of cells in a multi-celled
individual, or the organisation of individuals into a social unit.
The amoeba stop behaving as individuals and aggregate into
groups, which form clumps, discernible to the naked eye. These clumps
then form straggling streamers of living matter, which ... orient
themselves towards central collection points.... At the hub of each
central aggregation point, a mound begins to form as groups of amoeba
mount themselves atop other groups....
This hub gradually rises first into the shape of a blunt peg, and then into a distinctly phallic erection. When all the incoming streams of amoeba are almost completely incorporated into this erected cartridge-like form, it topples over
onto its side, now looking like a slimy sausage. This slug begins now to migrate across the forest floor to a point where, hopefully, more favourable ecological conditions will prevail. Estimations about the size of the population ... vary, but generally it is thought that perhaps some half a million amoeba are involved....
After migrating for a varible period of time (which can be two minutes or two weeks)
in the direction of light and warmth, this slug gradually erects itself once again into its phallic shape until it is standing on its tail.... This oval shape gradually assumes the form of a candle flame, bellied at the bottom and coming to a point at the top.... The end result is a delicate tapering shaft capped by a spherical mass of spores. When the spores are dispersed ... each can split open to
liberate a tiny new amoeba."