Fun fungi

I attended a seminar about fungi a while back (I seem to have acquired a long posting backlog), and I thought I’d share some of the fun facts that I didn’t know! Fungi have always been a little mysterious, and I’m always looking for some fun-gi to hang out with!*

The headers in bold are word for word the notes I wrote in my notebook at the seminar.

Septobasides are slave makers
I was totally not able to find any reference to this fact online…so take it with a grain of salt.

Fibularhizoctonia mimic termite eggs
This, however, had a wealth of information online! The interaction is supposedly mutualistic in some cases, as “the sclerotia enhance egg survival, probably because the antifungal and antibacterial compounds produced by the fungus protect the eggs from putative pathogens” (Matsuura 2005). However, a year later, this author seems to disagree with himself and conclude that this is technically a parasitic association in most cases, where the fungus mimics termite eggs on a chemical and morphological level, and the termites tend them in their egg pile. Though the fungus generally does not harm the eggs, he found that it occasionally does and therefore should be called parasitic (Matsuura 2006). (Come to your own conclusions on that one!)

Check out Alex Wild’s awesome photo series on this! http://www.alexanderwild.com/keyword/termite%20eggs;fibularhizoctonia/i-dCq9ZGc/A

Fungi can have up to 28,000 sexes!
True story: I once tried to write a blog article about fungal reproduction and found out a) that it is nothing like plant reproduction and b) I had a lot of misconceptions about fungal reproduction. If you haven’t thought about fungal sex in a while, you might want to check some of your assumptions!

For some fungi (like the split gill fungus Schizophyllum commune), have to find a mate who has a different version of every one of 28,000 genes (hence the “28,000 sexes” thing). It’s meant to maximize genetic diversity in the population. Here’s another education article on that: http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/feb2000.html

The hat growing fungus can fire its cap faster than a bullet and grows on poop

According to the BBC, this hat-growing fungus accelerates faster than any organism on earth! So, even though my note is a little misleading (the cap doesn’t actually travel faster than a bullet…it just accelerates WAY faster), it’s sorta true.

Here’s a fun video of the action:

Psythyrella aquatica fruits underwater
I’m trying to determine whether this is the ONLY fungus that fruits underwater, and this paper by Frank et al (2009) seems to suggest it is at least a new habitat for “gilled mushrooms” and that “Basidiocarps of 11 species of homobasidiomycetes occur in marine ecosystems.” Hibbett and Binder (2001, open access) further explain that these homobasidiomycetes occur in both marine and freshwater ecosystems, but none of them are gilled mushrooms.

Here’s a picture by Robert A. Coffan!

*pun intended

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6 thoughts on “Fun fungi

  1. With 28,000 choices, one wonders how they ever manage to reproduce at all! I am reminded of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel in which the aliens (Tralfalmodorians?) discovered there were seven sexes required for human reproduction.

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