This Mushroom Can Fly | Deep Look

From Deep Look.

Bird’s nest fungi look just like a tiny bird’s nest. But those little eggs have no yolks. Each one is a spore sac waiting for a single raindrop to catapult it on a journey with a layover inside the bowels of an herbivore.

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The spore sacs, known as peridioles, sit in their splash cup, biding their time. When a raindrop hits the cup, a peridiole hurtles off in milliseconds.

As it flies, the peridiole unfurls a cord and sometimes attaches to a blade of grass. When a hungry herbivore, such as a deer, eats the grass, it spreads the fungus’s spores in its droppings.

— How big are bird’s nest fungi?

A couple of bird’s nest fungi would fit on your thumbnail. Their splash cups are about 10 millimeters in diameter. An individual peridiole can be just 1 millimeter wide.

— How far do bird’s nest fungi travel?

Experiments carried out by Miami University mycologist Nik Money and then graduate student Maribeth Hassett in 2012 found that when a raindrop falls on a bird’s nest fungus and sends a peridiole flying, it can land somewhere between a few centimeters and a bit over a meter away. How far it travels varies, depending on the bird’s nest fungi species.

Money hypothesizes that herbivores such as deer eat blades of grass onto which peridioles have attached. He believes the fungus’s spores then travel inside the deer until the animal deposits them on the ground in its droppings.

— Are bird’s nest fungi edible?

They’re not known to be poisonous, but they’re so small, it’s probably not worth the attempt to eat them.

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