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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/378

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358
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

The more we study these wonderful organisms, the more surprising it seems that two such very different phases should coexist in the same organism and succeed each other so abruptly. We no longer wonder at the perplexity of the systematists, and we can PSM V35 D378 Stemonitis fusca.jpgFig. 6.—Stemonitis fusca. Central figure x 2; detail and spores more highly magnified. but admire the reckless courage of Saccardo, who discusses the slime-molds in his volume vii, "Sylloge Fungorum" along with other myceliumless forms, and says-never so much as "By your leave."

Before the vision of the biologist there rises ever more that weird limbo where "men" appear "as-trees walking." Whether, as in that elder case, experience may bring clearer vision, time alone can tell. Plant and animal have doubtless somewhere a common starting-ground. Toward that common origin the Myxomycetes undoubtedly point. They PSM V35 D378 Arcyria punicea.jpgFig. 7.—Arcyria punicea. Detail and spores highly magnified. are not it. They seem rather to represent an independent twig near the base of the great tree of life, a branchlet whose departure was absolute as ancient, developing with no respect to any other organic thing, and soon reaching the limit of that particular possibility. Perfect in themselves, we may look for nothing further in that direction. Nature herself has written, "No thoroughfare."

In conclusion, we may notice the question of utility which doubtless rises in some minds. To what end are all these microscopic bits of stuff organic thus hidden from ordinary ken? To such a query no real answer can be given. Our systems of economics are nowhere sufficiently refined, our tests of value show no balances whose