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eople identifying as “different” sexes from the ones that are socially accepted has become a huge problem in our society. Although the western world is starting to accept individuals that identify themselves as a different sex from the ones that have been followed for centuries, the rest of the world seems to be quite resistant, being upheld by various cultures, religions, and other social constructs.

However, there is an organism on this Earth that does actually prove that sex is just a social construct, as this organism has 720 different sexes. You may think that even for the organism itself it would be quite difficult to wrap its head around so many different sexes, but having no brain probably helps. This organism is named Physarum polucephalum and it is identified by biologists as a self-sustaining and developing slime that can grow exponentially only using the energy it absorbs within the atmosphere, such as the humidity and sun rays.

The History of Physarum polycephalum

There is no specific date as to when or who exactly identified this slime, it just started appearing in the biology encyclopedia during the start of the 19th century. The organism itself was not analyzed or studied properly until 1930 when Frank L. Howard became fascinated by the way the organism was growing and the patterns it was creating. In 1931 Howard published a paper entitled “The Life History of Physarum polucephalum” which can be found in the American Journal of Botany Vol.18.

Besides the huge number of sexes, what surprised Howard was that even if the organism does not have a brain, it was still showing signs of intelligence and even learning by following different patterns. Even if the organism does not have eyes or ears, it is very aware of its own surroundings and it will back up if it feels danger is in front.

During the 1960s people started calling it “the blob” inspired by a science fiction movie released in 1958 named “The Blob” in which a similar alien organism was shown. Since then many experiments have been performed toward a better understanding of the way that the blob developed and grows. Here is a video showcasing the creature in action in a Zoo in Paris where it is open to the public.

It seems that the blob is very good at building passages based on the terrain it has available. An interesting project took place in 2009 where the blob was actually used to build motorways in England. The blob was set on a 3D map where it sort of identified the best routes of building the motorways based on the terrain. In 2010 a similar project was carried out with the Tokyo subway.

Adapted from the illustration of a study by Professor Toshiyuki Nakagaki on the creation and optimization of a network at different hour intervals by P. polycephalum (the blob) (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

A more recent study that took place in 2016 showed that even a brainless creature can be more clever than most organisms with a brain. The blob was subjected to different mazes and it managed to find its way out every time with ease. This is making scientists view intelligence in a different way, maybe intelligence isn’t directly linked to brains, but something closer to the entity that gives everything life.

I presume you are still wondering how exactly does this organism has 720 different sexes, is it even possible? The answer is yes and here is how it works. While human sex cells come in two types (sperm and egg), slime molds have sex cells with multiple genes that can come in different combinations. There are 720 different combinations that can come out, but scientists are still working on identifying and classifying all of them.

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