Mushrooms reproduce by releasing spores that are carried by the wind to create the next generation of fungus. It sounds a bit random, but there might be more to it than meets the eye. New research that was presented earlier this week at the Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics by researchers from Trinity College and UCLA has shown that some mushrooms are capable of generating wind to help get the spores in motion.
After studying Shiitake, oyster, and a species of “magic” mushrooms with a high speed camera, the research team was able to determine that the mushrooms use fluid dynamics to shoot spores 4 inches (10 centimeters) into the air.
The process is actually relatively simple. As water evaporates off of the mushroom and cools it off, the warm air and water vapor rise up and disperse, bringing the spores with it. This gives mushrooms that might be hidden on the forest floor a better chance at sending the spores to a place where they can land and grow. With the spores traveling long distances, there is an increase of genetic diversity as well as an increased range.
Mushrooms aren’t just the most delicious fungi this side of truffles, but they are capable of employing elegant fluid dynamics in order to perpetuate their species. Mushrooms might seem simple enough to understand completely, but there are only about 14,000 species described, though experts believe that could only be a fraction of what is really out there. Gaining a better understanding of the reproduction of these fungal bodies is a good step into having a more complete picture of the members of the Fungi kingdom.