Seedy but Speedy: Fungus Spews Spores at 55 Mph

By | September 21, 2008

In a finding that could help control harmful fungus, researchers have discovered a high-speed mechanism the germs use to project their spores into the air. Scientists from Miami University (M.U.) in Oxford, Ohio, and the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati report in the journal PLoS ONE that fungi may be one of the fastest land species, clocking speeds of up to 55 miles (88 kilometers) per hour and producing accelerations 180,000 times greater than gravity.

Fungi are the most common crop pathogens in the world. Most are fairly harmless to people, although like other allergens they sometimes exacerbate allergies and asthma. But certain varieties such as Stachybotrys chartarum, commonly referred to as black mold, that thrive in damp places like basements may also infect the lungs of people who have compromised immune systems or chronic bronchitis. Biologists once believed that mild air currents were enough to release fungi’s spores, but are increasingly finding that molds employ elaborate methods to spew their seeds away from the nest. Using ultrahigh-speed video, the researchers calculated that some fungi use their own natural water pressure like squirt guns to eject their spores.

“The beauty of the mechanism was a great surprise,” says lead study author Nicholas Money, a fungus biologist at M.U. “We were totally gobsmacked by these images.” … – sciam

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