Beware: A “blob” is arriving at Paris zoo this weekend

The blob is a single-cell organism that can eat, move, and double in size each day, Scientists hope it may prove useful

The Parc Zoologique de Paris (Paris zoo) is to welcome a new resident - but it is neither animal, nor vegetable, nor fungi. It is, in fact, a “blob”, which can eat, move, and double in size every 24 hours.

So far, the new blob measures several centimetres in diameter, and is set to be visible to the public from this Saturday (October 19), on the branches of a tree in a vivarium tank at the zoo (formerly known as the Zoo de Vincennes).

Despite appearing to pick up its nickname from the 1958 horror film of the same name, the “blob”’s real scientific name is physarum polycephalum, and it is not actually dangerous to the public. It is part of a genuine research project in France.

It has the appearance of a yellow, semi-solid mousse, and bears a passing resemblance to an overcooked omelette or scrambled eggs. Made from a single cell organism, it can in fact “eat”, grow and move by up to one cenitmetre per hour, using natural materials to transform itself and double in size each day.

It enjoys eating porridge oat flakes, but detests anything salty. Its colour can also change depending on what it eats; for example, given beetroot, it would turn a shade of red.

It can also be put into a “dormant” state, and then be “woken up” again if needed, and it is almost impossible to kill.

Scientists hope that by finding out more about these organisms - which can grow to the size of several square kilometres - could help with natural recycling, cleaning forest floors or polluted ground, and possibly even facilitate the discovery of new kinds of antibiotics.

The project has in part been spearheaded by French “bobologist” and animal cognition researcher at the Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse and at the CNRS, Audrey Dussustour.

Ms Dussustour has told the story of how she had been studying a few “very strange” blobs in her laboratory, and left them alone for a weekend. She came back to find them stuck to the ceiling in one large, melded blob.

(Video: Le blob, l’extra-média / YouTube - Full English subtitles are available on the video player by selecting: Subtitles --> Settings --> AutoTranslate --> English).

She explained: “The blob is neither a plant nor an animal. It is an unclassifiable as it has characteristics from the three major kingdoms. It eats like an animal, but breeds like a mushroom, and has a plant colour.

“In nature, it eats mushrooms. But we give it oatmeal flakes...one weekend there was no-one in the lab, because of a personal problem, I could not go to feed the blobs.

“They were all American blobs, and you have to know that when blobs escape, they find each other, and merge. Blobs always do that when they find a genetically-identical blob, they fuse to create a giant blob. And they had not found any oatmeal flakes, but they did find the laboratory ceiling.”

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