Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Mushrooms Create Their Own Breeze

Journal Scientific American has reported a mushroom mystery and the story of how the solution was discovered. We have thought for a long time that when a mushroom or other fungal fruiting body starts producing spores they are dispersed on air currents, so it was assumed that anything from a breeze to a strong wind would be needed to move the spores around.

Puff ball releasing cloud of spores
However it was then noted that mushrooms were able to disperse spores even in the absence of wind - in completely still air! This was a mystery - how could this be possible as few fungal fruiting bodies have any obvious sort of mechanism to project spores. There are one or two exceptions - puff balls for example are large bags of air that forcibly eject spores when the puff ball is struck with a drop of rain, but these are exceptions to the rule!

Emilie Dressaire et. al. have reported the finding that a mushroom can actively cool the air surrounding them and consequently create upward air currents eminating from the mushroom itself, and spores are carried away in those air currents.

So even in the stillest of air, a mushroom can effectively disperse its own spores far and wide!

The author of the Scientific American story (Katherine Harmon) has released an audio podcast describing the finding

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