Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Carnivorous Ink Cap


Shaggy ink caps Coprinus comatus seem to be particularly abundant on disturbed habitats like road verges. Their season is quite short, peaking in September and early October and although they are edible you need to be quick if you want to harvest edible specimens. The life of each toadstool is very short, erupting through the grass on one day and almost immediately beginning to dissolve into an inky mass of spores that are dispersed by flies. This fungus is not just unusal in using insects to disperse its spores – it can also feed on animal tissue. Some research carried out in recent years in China has confirmed that this is one of several fungi (another being the oyster mushroom Pleurotus ostreatus) whose hyphal exudates can stupefy and kill nematode worms in the soil, which they then digest with their invasive hyphal threads. Shaggy ink cap is a carnivore - which raises some interesting questions about whether you should eat it if you are a strict vegetarian! In evolutionary terms fungi are much more closley related to animals than plants anyway. You can read about research into shaggy ink cap's nematode-eating activity at http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1932715

For more on this fungus and many others, also take a look at Tom Volk’s outstanding web site at http://tomvolkfungi.net/

4 comments:

  1. That's a cracking picture Phil. It looks a giant at that angle.
    And more knowledge I've gained. Never thought of a toadstool being carnivorous before.

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  2. Love the angle you took that one from, Phil. Brill shot & a brill post.

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  3. Another fascinating post Phil. What a cracking fly's eye view of the Shaggy Ink Cap.

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  4. Thanks for the kind comments, Dean, Keith and John - little pocket cameras that you can rest on the ground really come into their own for photographing fungi from ground level

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