Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Manipulative fungi

One of the problems that fungi have overcome in many creative ways is that of spore dispersal: in order to create spores in great numbers, a large surface area is required. 'Conventional' fungi use gills or pores to create as much spore-producing area as possible, but other fungi use a number of alternative techniques to maximise the area and exposure of their spores, and these images show that off to great effect.

Triphragmium ulmariae is a common rust on Meadowsweet, and can be instantly recognised by the conspicuous bright orange aecia on the leaf veins and petioles:

Notice the distortion of the leaf, which causes it to curl (larger surface area) and invert the leaf (better dispersal).

And now the classic piece of fungal manipulation: Entomophthora muscae.

This fungus attacks female flies, entering via the alimentary canal and migrating to the abdomen. Here it multiplies rapidly, forming a large pink mass, whilst at the same time compelling the fly to move to the highest local point. This can be a blade of grass, a flowerhead or a leaf. Once in position, the female extends her wings and her rear legs, then she dies in situ. This behavior extends the abdomen as far as possible, and removes the wings as potential blockages. Again, the fungus has maximised the opportunity for spore dispersal.

1 comment:

Aynia said...

Very interesting about the flies.