Nav: Home

The secret of mushroom colors

July 02, 2019

The fly agaric with its red hat is perhaps the most evocative of the diverse and variously colored mushroom species. Hitherto, the purpose of these colors was shrouded in mystery. Researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), in collaboration with the Bavarian Forest National Park, have now put together the first pieces of this puzzle.

In nature, specific colors and patterns normally serve a purpose: The eye-catching patterns of the fire salamander convey to its enemies that it is poisonous. Red cherries presumably attract birds that eat them and thus disperse their seed. Other animals such as chameleons use camouflage coloring to protect themselves from discovery by predators.

But climate also plays a role in coloration: Especially insects and reptiles tend to be darker in colder climates. Cold-blooded animals rely on the ambient temperature to regulate their body temperature. Dark coloration allows them to absorb heat faster. The same mechanism could also play a role in fungi, as the research team of Franz Krah, who wrote his doctoral thesis on the topic at TUM and Dr. Claus Bässler, mycologist at the TUM and coworker in the Bavarian Forest National Park suspect. Mushrooms might benefit from solar energy to improve their reproduction, as well.

Distribution of 3054 fungus species studied

To test their theory, the researchers combed through vast volumes of data. They investigated the distribution of 3054 species of fungi throughout Europe. In the process, they analyzed the lightness of their coloration and the prevailing climatic conditions in the respective habitats. The results showed a clear correlation: Fungal communities have darker mushrooms in cold climates. The scientists also accounted for seasonal changes. They discovered that fungal communities that decompose dead plant constituents are darker in spring and autumn than in summer.

"Of course, this is just the beginning," explains Krah. "It will take much more research before we develop a comprehensive understanding of mushroom colors." For example, further seasonal coloring effects cannot be detected in fungi that live in symbiosis with trees. "Here, other coloration functions, such as camouflage, also play a role." The researchers also need to study the degree to which dark coloration influences the reproductive rate of fungi.
-end-


Technical University of Munich (TUM)

Related Fungi Articles:

The two faces of rot fungi
Yogurt, beer, bread and specialties such as tasty blue cheeses or good wine -- special microorganisms and refining processes first produce the pleasant flavors and enticing aromas of many foodstuffs.
Growth mechanism of fungi decoded
Fungi grow with tubular cells extending by kilometers. Growth takes place exclusively at the tip.
Fungi awake bacteria from their slumber
When a soil dries out, this has a negative impact on the activity of soil bacteria.
Why communication is vital -- even among plants and fungi
A plant protein vital to chemical signalling between plants and fungi has been discovered, revealing more about the communication processes underlying symbiosis.
Biosynthetic secrets: How fungi make bioactive compounds
Biological engineers at Utah State University have successfully decoded and reprogrammed the biosynthetic machinery that produces a variety of natural compounds found in fungi.
More Fungi News and Fungi Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...