NOV 05, 2015 6:03 PM PST

The Role of Mushroom Fungus in Stimulation of Rainfall

WRITTEN BY: Sarah Hertrich
Much like bacteria, fungus serve as a vital component of human society with a variety of important functions. For example, the food and pharmaceuitical industries rely heavily on fungal products. The microorganism that produces beer and bread is a fungus known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Edible mushrooms are identified as vegetables and serve as a source of fiber and protein in the diet. Antibiotics including penicillin, cephalosporin, cyclosporine and statin drugs are all based on products produced by fungus. Engineers are also currently investigating the use of fungi in sustainable and biodegradable building and packing materials. Fungi are even important to the fashion industry where fungal enzymes are used to soften and fade denim jeans.
 
A specific type of fungal spore released by mushrooms, known as basidospores, form a significant proportion of aerosols above rainforests.

Fungi are also extremely important in nature where they are relied upon by plants to facilitate water and nutrient uptake. It is hypothesized that root-associated fungi enabled the initial colonization of land by plants millions of years ago. Fungi also help us to recycle by serving as the main decomposers of organic material. Given all of their important contributions it is not surprising that fungus, specifically mushrooms, are thought to have a positive impact on the ecosystem of tropical rainforests as well.

According to a research article published recently in PLOS ONE, there are millions of tons of fungal spores that are dispersed in the atmosphere every year, many of which are produced by mushrooms. A specific type of fungal spore released by mushrooms, known as basidospores, form a significant proportion of aerosols above rainforests. An individual gilled mushroom can release 30,000 basidiospores per second. These spores have been shown, using high-speed video recordings in the 1980s, to be discharged from the gills of mushrooms by a catapult mechanism stimulated by a drop of fluid over the spore surface. This drop was previously identified as Buller’s drop, after the scientist who discovered this mechanism (A.H.R. Buller).
 

 
In the current study, researchers used environmental scanning electron microscopy (EEM) to analyze samples of basidiomycete fruit bodies from several different species of mushrooms. To analyze the behavior of spores upon dispersal, each spore was subjected to 2-4 changes in relative humidity. Using this technique they were able to show that liquid droplets reform on spores during periods of high humidity. These results indicate that these types of spores are particularly effective in the formation of large water droplets in clouds. This evidence suggests that mushroom basidiospores may influence rainfall in ecosystems where large populations of mushrooms thrive. Furthermore, scientists speculate that changes in climate that affect rainfall in tropical ecosystems may also cause inhibition in fungal growth, subsequently leading to an increased frequency in droughts.

Source: PLOS ONE; Kew
 
About the Author
  • I am a postdoctoral researcher with interests in pre-harvest microbial food safety, nonthermal food processing technologies, zoonotic pathogens, and plant-microbe interactions. My current research projects involve the optimization of novel food processing technologies to reduce the number of foodborne pathogens on fresh produce. I am a food geek!
You May Also Like
DEC 20, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Chromatin Doesn't Behave Like a Liquid or Solid - It's a Gel
DEC 20, 2020
Chromatin Doesn't Behave Like a Liquid or Solid - It's a Gel
A cell's nucleus has to hold the entire genome. To do that, the DNA has to be carefully arranged and compacted by protei ...
JAN 02, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Putting Cells in Deep Freeze to Reveal Fine Structures in Action
JAN 02, 2021
Putting Cells in Deep Freeze to Reveal Fine Structures in Action
Many types of cells have to be able to move around, such as during the development of the body, or when immune cells hav ...
JAN 04, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Good Results From Trial of CAR T Cell Therapy for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
JAN 04, 2021
Good Results From Trial of CAR T Cell Therapy for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
Researchers have reported positive results from a phase 2 clinical trial of a CAR T cell therapy called axicabtagene cil ...
JAN 21, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
A Practical Reason Why Cats Love Catnip
JAN 21, 2021
A Practical Reason Why Cats Love Catnip
Cats love catnip and silver vine; the cat-attracting plants are treats that make cats excited and happy. Big cats also f ...
FEB 10, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Black Men Respond Best to Immunotherapy for Prostate Cancer
FEB 10, 2021
Black Men Respond Best to Immunotherapy for Prostate Cancer
Researchers from Northwestern University have found that Black men and men of African ancestry respond better than men f ...
FEB 18, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Inhibition of a Specific Enzyme Could be a Way to Treat Glioblastoma
FEB 18, 2021
Inhibition of a Specific Enzyme Could be a Way to Treat Glioblastoma
Researchers may have identified a new treatment target for a deadly form of brain cancer. Inhibiting an enzyme called PR ...
Loading Comments...