(TMU) — When we hear about new exhibits at the city zoo, we often imagine a gorgeous artificial habitat paired with exotic species that we’ve only seen pictures of in books, on television, or online.
But a zoo in Paris, France, significantly upped the ante on Wednesday when it unveiled “The Blob” to the public—a being that resembles more a nightmarish extraterrestrial creature or prehistoric fungus than an actual animal.
The blob is bright yellow, can heal itself in just a few minutes, and lacks a mouth, stomach, eyes, or brain. However, it can still detect food and digest it.
Known as a physarum polycephalum—or “many-headed slime,” according to CBS News—“the blob” also has nearly 720 sexes and is able to move at a healthy pace of up to 1.6 inches per hour without legs, wings, or fins.
According to the Paris Zoological Park, the unicellular mold first made its appearance on the planet some billion years ago. Researchers say that the creature is “essentially immortal” and only fears light and drought.
Bruno David, who heads the Paris Museum of Natural History, of which the zoo is a part, said:
“The blob is really one of the most extraordinary things on Earth today.
It’s been here for millions of years, and we still don’t really know what it is.”
« Le #blob est difficile à placer dans l’arbre du vivant. (…) Il nous apprend bien des choses sur la richesse de la vie sur Terre », explique @BrunoDavidMNHN.
Rendez-vous dès samedi au @zoodeparis pour entrer dans la blob-zone ! 🎉@CNRS #RDVSauvage #5AnsZoodeParis pic.twitter.com/B6lQ7gnjDQ
— Zoo de Paris (@zoodeparis) October 16, 2019
“It surprises us because it has no brain but is able to learn (…) and if you merge two blobs, the one that has learned will transmit its knowledge to the other.
We know for sure it is not a plant but we don’t really if it’s an animal or a fungus,”
However, while it remains impossible at present for scientists to classify the mysterious creature, its behavior is shockingly animal-like. Not only does it have a memory, but it also can adapt its behavior and find its way out of a maze.
“It behaves very surprisingly for something that looks like a mushroom (…) it has the behavior of an animal, it is able to learn.”
Scientists at the Zoological Park first grew the organism in the laboratories of the facility, feeding it oatmeal in small petri dishes before the blob was transferred to tree bark, which it sustains itself on, within a glass enclosure.
The Blob’s name comes from the classic 1958 sci-fi horror film of the same name starring Steve McQueen. In the film, the titular monster arrives before consuming everything in its path in a small Pennsylvania town.
In this case, however, scientists are confident that the same scenario won’t play out in the French capital. Our fingers are crossed.