Friday, 14 April 2017

A place called home ...

Least Inkcap (Parasola misera)






Coprophilous fungi [those growing on dung] are highly satisfactory for demonstrating the diversity and morphology of a group of related organisms within an ecological system. Representative genera of most major groups of fungi can usually be guaranteed to appear on dung after a period of incubation. The dung of herbivores plays host to more species than that of carnivores - which is good news as far as I’m concerned as it’s far more preferable digging around in herbivore dung than that of others - I do have standards after all!

Dung provides a rich substrate for fungi with its easily accessible nutrients and high water-retention qualities. As a growing medium, its chemical composition requires a high degree of specialization. Consequently many dung-inhabiting fungi are not found on any other substrate. The first stage in the life cycle is the ingestion of the spores by the animal in its food. Consequently these spores are excreted with the dung. The heat generated during the decomposition process aids germination and the first fruit bodies of primitive species start to appear within a few days, with a succession of different species following over a period of time.

The above images show the tiny Parasola misera (Agaricales: Psathyrellaceae), which is saprobic [an organism that obtains its nutrients from dead organic matter] on cow dung; conservation grazing grade in this instance from Ebernoe Common, West Sussex. My thanks to Nick Aplin for species determination and for the above photomicrograph, which shows the distinctive heart-shaped basidiospores with germ pores.

References:

Richardson, M.J. and Watling, R. (1997). Keys to Fungi on Dung. Stourbridge, West Midlands: British Mycological Society.
Skidmore, P. (1991). Insects of the British cow-dung community. Shrewsbury: Field Studies Council, Occasional Publication No. 21, pp. 12-13.
Sterry, P. and Hughes. B. (2009). Collins Complete Guide to British Mushrooms and Toadstools. London: HarperCollins, pp. 344 and 345.

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