Episode Summary

Some fungi only form fruiting bodies after forest fires; where do they hide the rest of the time? At least for some of them, the answer is: inside mosses!

Thanks to Daniel Raudabaugh for his contribution!

Microbe of the episode

Microbe of the episode: Nocardia brevicatena

News discussed

Jesse's takeaways

Forest fires can do a lot of damage, but life grows back quickly. Certain kinds of plant seed actually only germinate after a fire, and a similar thing is true of certain kinds of fungi: they only form fruiting bodies (like mushrooms, for spreading spores) after a fire. For plants, the advantage may come from increased access to light with some or all of the canopy burned away, and fungi may benefit from less competition on the ground. But in between burn events, these fire-loving (pyrophilous) fungi seem to disappear. Where do they go?

The study here sought an answer, suspecting an association with some mosses that reappeared soon after a forest fire in North Carolina in 2016. They looked for fungi lurking as endophytes inside moss and other samples, both by growing them on agar and by DNA sequencing, and they found a number of different known pyrophilous fungi. Some of these were in soil, or samples from outside the burned area, but the majority were inside mosses growing in the recently burned zone.

Journal Paper

Raudabaugh DB, Matheny PB, Hughes KW, Iturriaga T, Sargent M, Miller AN. 2020. Where are they hiding? Testing the body snatchers hypothesis in pyrophilous fungi. Fungal Ecol 43:100870.

Other interesting stories

Subscribe (free) on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Android, RSS, or by email.

Support the show at Patreon. Follow the show on Twitter and Facebook.