We've heard of unusual creatures, but a mysterious new organism dubbed the “blob” certainly caught our eye when it made its recent debut at the Paris Zoological Park.
Located in the park's European vivarium, physarum polycephalum, to give it its official name, is a yellow-coloured, unicellular living being that looks like a fungus but acts like an animal. It first appeared on the planet a billion years ago, 750 million years before the dinosaurs, and its extraordinary abilities have long fascinated scientists. It has a whopping 720 sexes, and it can manage to move without legs, wings or fins at a speed of 1cm per hour.
The blob doesn't have a mouth, stomach or eyes, yet it can detect food and digest it, and if you were to cut it in half, it would heal in two minutes. It fears only light and drought, and it can, under adverse conditions, enter a state of hibernation. To wake it up again, you simply give it a little water.
At the exhibition, an interactive wall and videos offer visitors experiences to understand how the blob moves, learns, selects food or shows "cultural variations". In the breeding room, it is fed with oatmeal, but in the terrarium it feeds itself on the bark and branches it is given.
Remarkably, the blob has an intelligence even though it lacks a brain, although it remains to be discovered how a single cell achieves this feat. It manages to communicate and solve complex problems, such as finding the shortest way between 60,000 to get out of a maze, and it can anticipate a change in its climatic environment.
The study of the blob at the Zoological Park paves the way to a better understanding of the mechanisms of intelligence, and further updates can be found on its website here.