Normally these already hydrated particulates utilise water flow or the surrounding fauna to move from one area to the next, however the researchers observed a higher rate of population movement when humans were also present in the environment, leading the team who study the migratory behaviours of mud to hypothesis that after years of exposure to humans the mud has evolved techniques to utilise the far-ranging habits of the bipedal mammal to enhance its own coverage.
As detailed in the upcoming issue of Unnature, scientists observing the mud behaviour are not sure when exactly mud evolved these new techniques, saying tracking changes in mud chemistry is difficult without further study, but are confident in their theory.
"So far, we know of only two other confirmed methods of mud migration; water flow or piggy-backing on other things in motion such as birds or rolling rocks. This new theory expands on the piggy-back hypothesis to help explain why we see mud in far wider environments, which can't be explained by local wildlife movements alone. To think that such a substance can so quickly adapt and use as of yet unknown methods to cling to the soles of human shoes to expand its environment is amazing."
Mud migration research is a hot topic at the moment, with two other theories competing for global headlines. Last month a team from Brazil put forth the 'Migration through worm digestion' theory, and last year scientists in Egypt released an astounding paper suggesting that mud can migrate by changing its very composition, turning itself into dry, non-water infused particles (what they call 'dust') and are then carried in heavy winds similar to how some species of plant seeds are transported.
Joanna Gloop, who leads the team at the University of Manchester that made this breakthrough, said that "Mud is an important part of life on Earth. The study of mud migratory patterns doesn't just impact research on cleaning products or vacuum clean technology, but as we start to travel to other planets, we hope our study of this shy material on this planet puts us in good stead for identifying the signs of mud throughout the universe. These are exciting times to live in."