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Solitary Bees, Sundew And Slime Mold - Surreal Examples Of Biodiversity

Here are Planting Seeds, we want to protect all of our biodiversity. We even want to protect bugs like wasps, which are notoriously disliked, because they are also vital to our ecosystem. Ecosystems are highly connected networks, where one organism can have ripple effects that impact everything, from the more common ones to the very surreal.

And Australia has a LOT of surreal biodiversity. Arguably, we have the most surreal nature, as we contain the largest amount of endemic creatures. Endemic species is just the fancy, scientific term to describe a living thing that can only be found in a specified geographical area. Think of an island. Plants, fungi and most animals may be unable to leave the island, and given enough time to evolve in isolation they would develop traits radically different from those found in the rest of the world.

Those organisms would be considered endemic to that island since they could only be found there. And Australia is quite a large island. Our organisms had been separated from many non-migratory animals outside Australia until British colonisers arrived. The result was that when a Platypus was eventually sent to England to be studied, scientists genuinely thought it was a hoax. Such animals were so strange that early British explorers believed that creatures from Aboriginal mythology like the Bunyip may have been an actual creature yet to be discovered.

Having endemic species is a massive strength, as it means we contain a variety of genetic material that other countries don’t have, but this comes with the caveat that we must take care of our ‘alien’ animals. As we try to protect pollinators, and by extension the environment, it is a good idea to take a look back to remember the reason why we care so much about protecting them, and biodiversity in general.

In the meantime, we thought we’d take a look at some surreal examples of biodiversity, endemic to Australia:

Solitary bees:

This may come as an earth-shattering fact, but nearly ALL the world’s bee species are not social. Most species of bees do not live in a hive with other bees. Most bees don’t even work for a queen. At this rate I am very suspicious over the quality of their knees, and if they are in fact, the ‘bees knees.’ Regardless of the quality of their knees, solitary bees are very varied and vivid.

One native solitary bee is the Blue-Banded Bee, which is white, black and blue and makes their nests in clay soil, mudbricks, or anything made from them and found all around the country. Next is the Fire-Tailed Resin Bee, which has a cool orange abdomen to make up for the lack of alliteration in its name. Fire-Tailed Resin Bees nest in wood, or anything made from it.

Most female solitary bee species would mate with a male and then make herself a nest for her eggs. While solitary bees are quite common in many countries, Australia has more species of bees than nearly all countries, many of which are endemic.


One might find it a little strange that this plant has tendrils protruding from its leaves, and the more astute may find it odd that they aren’t green, but red. Why would they take not of the colour? Well, a plant’s green colour comes from the chlorophyll, the chloroplast of the plant’s cells, and chlorophyll allows the plant to photosynthesise and produce energy. These start to make sense though when you realise the tendrils aren’t for photosynthesis, but are still for gaining sustenance. It is because the Sundew gains energy from eating prey. While this carnivorous plant is also found outside of Australia, it is one of the most common carnivorous plant genus found in Australia.

Their tentacles have glands at the end, which produce a sticky substance to trap any bug foolish enough to land on it. This adhesive gives the tendrils a shiny appearance, making it appear to have dew accumulated on its tip, hence its name ‘Sundew.’ While carnivorous plants are strange, they are hardly only endemic to Australia. In fact, carnivorous plants are found on every continent except Antarctica.

Carnivorous plants first evolved to adapt to nutrient-poor environments. Since they were unable to get their nutrients from the soil, they get it from the bugs they ensnare. Consequently, this meant sacrificing cells that could hold chlorophyll, and give the plant less area to photosynthesise and gain energy. When light is in excess and nutrients are not, this is an important trade offer for survival.

Nevertheless, something that sets Sundews apart from other carnivorous plants, especially ones that don’t use glue like the Venus Flytrap, is that humans had found a way to use these tendrils, or rather, the adhesive they excrete. The adhesive has the ability to fuse with live and growing mammal cells. While milking a Sundew for this gluey substance is not practical, scientists have been able to create a synthetic gel that promotes wound healing by studying its properties.

Slime molds:

For a few reasons, Slime Molds are the outlier of this short list, the most obvious reason for which is that very few have ever heard of a Slime Mold. When we think of a slime, our minds think of a few select, fantastically fictitious characters or a kids play item. Some might think of the famous horror movie ‘The Blob,’ others might think of Slimer from ‘Ghostbusters,’ or even enemies (typically low-level ones) in any RPG games (especially if you are well-versed in tabletop RPGs or JRPGs).

In an ironic sense, they are seen so often in media that they are doubted to actually exist in any sort of capacity, akin to dragons, dwarves and elves. But as reality often does, people that expected a blobby, gooey mass would be very disappointed. Another reason why Slime Moulds may be the outlier on this list is because a Slime Mould isn’t itself a species, but a kingdom.

Slime Moulds were believed to be a part of the Fungi kingdom, but have since been realised to belong to their own kingdom. For comparison, animals have their own kingdom, as does plants, so it is equivalent of including mushrooms as a whole on this list. These organisms are in terms of genetics and appearance very alien when compared to the organisms we have familiarised ourselves with. And, of course, being so foreign to what we recognise as ‘regular’ means that there is a lot to learn from them.

For starters, Slime molds are comprised of a single cell, yet they are visible to the human eye. For comparison, most humans are comprised of 30 trillion cells, although this number changes a lot depending on various factors. Animals and plants all are made of an incredible number of vastly different, specialised cells, yet this organism is made of a single cell that can accomplish all the organism’s requirements. Furthermore, a single cell may contain multiple nuclei, when plant and animal cells all have a single nuclei per cell (and sometimes no nuclei).

Another freaky fact is that if you cut one in half, it can reform. You can cut it into thousands of pieces and the small parts would just reform. It gets to the point where predators may not even be a big threat to them, because if a predator gets full after eating half of the slime’s body, it might be in no imminent danger as it will completely regenerate. I can go on for a lot longer on their many alien features, like their ability to fuse together and create another mold, or how NASA has been researching them to create an AI to model efficient networks, but then I wouldn’t be able to talk about Australian biodiversity.

But that is partially the issue. There is very little known about the kingdom. Because they were believed initially to be fungi, the leading Slime Mold scientists are ironically mycologists. Imagine if the leading zoologists were botanists. As mentioned earlier, NASA had been using Slime Moulds to create AI, some of which have been deployed to find efficient transportation routes, while others are used by them to map dark matter. According to Steven L Stephenson’s book “Secretive Slime Moulds” Australia has the largest number of known Slime Moulds of any region in the Southern Hemisphere. While it cannot be confirmed that Australia necessarily has the most Slime Moulds in the Southern Hemisphere (we may have just spotted more than other regions) it is certainly imperative that we look after our biodiversity to safeguard these seriously surreal specimens.

So, that’s three examples of surreal biodiversity, endemic to Australia. Keep an eye on our articles for more crazy wonderful biodiversity facts, coming soon!