A recent study discovered that mushrooms don’t rely on wind to carry their spores, but instead create their own airflow using thermodynamic energy.
Whether part of the flora, fungi or fauna, every living entity has developed its own means of preserving and further perpetuating the species.
Mushrooms are some of the oldest representatives of multicellular life on the entire Earth. Usually living on the forest floor at the base of trees and chunks of timber, where the wind is unlikely to reach. Mushrooms are experts at finding ingenious ways of surviving the ordeals of the surrounding nature.
Mushrooms stand out with a unique system of spreading their spores. Initially it was believed that mushrooms simply drop the spores and let the wind play the vital part of transporting the reproductive packets wherever nature decides.
However, recent studies revealed that mushrooms play a more active role in the dissemination of their seeds, having developed an uncommon method of carrying out their legacy.
“They make wind to carry their spores about,” said UCLA researcher Marcus Roper.
Mushrooms somehow generate air flow simply by letting the moist layer on their surface evaporate, thus allowing them to cool off, since the transition from liquid water to vapor requires thermal energy. Cold air is denser than hot air and has a predilection to flow and disperse out. The process of evaporation also leads to water vapors that are much less dense than air. These two elemental forces help ferry the spores out of the mushroom, helping them to safely rise into the air on a gust of wind. This helping hand takes off spores into the air up to 10 centimeters, both horizontally and vertically, before conveying to a proper growing spot.
A more detailed process of this wonder of nature has been observed with the aid of laser lights that illuminated the spores spreading from a mushroom that created its own wind. This exclusive ability offers the spores a chance to find a better and more appropriate location to land and evolve into a mushroom that will continue the journey to maturity.
Emilie Dressaire, a professor of experimental fluid mechanics at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, in collaboration with her colleague Marcus Roper, were the first to observe the mushroom’s process of self-making wind in full spectrum with a laser light and a professional high-speed camera. For those who wish to witness the wonder, it is possible to observe the spreading of the spores at night, visible even with a common flashlight.
Combining the imagery with obtained data about the amount of water loss and temperature readings, the researchers demonstrated in full detail how the fungi create their own air current. Among the mushroom species studied is the Amanita muscaria, a hallucinogenic mushroom that can be highly toxic if not prepared in the right manner.
The examination was issued on November 25, 2013, at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics in Pittsburgh, revealing that all mushroom-producing fungi could possess the capacity to diffuse its spores in this manner.
Another study conducted by mycologist Anne Pringle from Harvard University has also discovered that fungi actively disperse their spores in more than one way: alternatively, mushrooms can shoot their spores at extremely high speeds in rapid succession.
What Anne Pringle wanted to point out is that mushrooms hold more secrets than suspected so far and despite Dressaire and Roper’s amazing discovery, this species has more than one ace up its sleeve to ensure its millennial survival over Earth’s many cyclical stages of mass extinction.
Versatility is key and the mushrooms seem to be one of the key makers. Even us humans have much to learn from a primordial life form that somehow manifests an incredible adaptability, almost as if it has an intelligent and ever evolving mind of its own.