Notes: This fungi is unnamed (so far). It was first discovered in New Caledonia about 2 years ago and since then has been sighted on Lord Howe Island. This is the first reported on Mainland Australia.
[admin – Sat Aug 14 02:06:41 +0000 2010]: Changed location name from ‘Tara Ridge, Booyong, NSW’ to ‘Tara Ridge, Booyong, New South Wales, Australia’
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Just saw this cool posting for the first time – the image showing a blue Gyromitra-like specimen having been included in clickbait lists across the internet – and further to reading this thread I am wondering what the lab’s further tests uncovered.
>>I find it hard to believe this belongs in Leratiomyces with that pure white gleba, surely it would show a dark brown gleba if it fitted into that genus?<<
There are other genera of hypogaeous fungi with a white gleba, but dark spores, as e.g. the genus Rhizopogon or even the genus Tuber. At least they are white (whitish) for a long time of their life cycle.
Here are some observations from Tom May
“We got some DNA results back yesterday for your collection. The sequences suggest that your material is (1) very close to some specimens of the green Leratiomyces from new Caledonia, and (2) that the blue and green ones belong in the Psathyrellaceae, and will be related to either Psathyrella itself, or to one of the new segregates of Coprinus such as Coprinopsis. This is rather unexpected, since the other Leratiomyces are related to Hypholoma and Stropharia. However, it fits with the morphology, since the cap surface is made up of rounded cells, as in Psathyrella, and the veil on the surface when young (the spiky scales) can also be present in Psathyrella. We will now run an analysis against a greater range of sequences within the Psathyrellaceae to see where the blue Leratiomyces comes out. We’ll also be comparing the morphological characters against the green ones from New Caledonia to see if they are the same microscopically”
That looks very similar to what Steve has here but I still find it hard to believe that a Leratiomyces species could have a pure white gleba like that when all other species in that genus are brown spored with a dark pigmented hymenium!
Thanks Andreas. It could be some extinct or rare animals that spread the spores, but maybe I can find out (with a lot of luck). The fungus doesn’t seem to produce a spoor print, which would suggest that it spreads in some other way, probably by being eaten or carried by something from the animal kingdom. Just as a footnote, this one may not be the same as the New Caledonia species. It is having a DNA test to find out.
It could also be the other way around, slugs eat the fruit bodies then birds eat the slugs with the undamaged spores still in their gut, then the spores are dispersed with the birds waste!
May be it’s not just one species that is in charge of dispersing hypogaic fungi, but several. The voles find and eat truffles → the owl eat the voles and disperses the spores inside the voles.
Same with the blue-loving bird in Australia: Being secotioid is a safer way of growth, the hymneium is better guarded then in non-secotioid fungi. When the fruitbody is mature, the blue carpophor falls on the ground, is then found by the bird who brings it to its nest and so cares for a wider distribution. The fungus itself leaves the spores on this very spot or may be is eaten there by insects or slugs which disperse the spores still in a certain surrounding of the nest.
Thanks for all the fascinating comments. While I quite like the slug theory, it is difficult to see how a slug or snail would be sight dependent. After all, you don’t get a great view from that height, and smell would be so much easier. Still, I don’t know and stranger things happen. I haven’t noticed any smell, but then, my sense of smell isn’t good. While I haven’t seen any evidence for animal consumption, the way the fungus grows and falls off the stem, would indicate that this may be possible. I think I’ll pay more attention to what eats fungus in future. Wind dispersal seems very unlikely in this case at least.
presented, and it seems to me many are missing the point. Mycorrhizal fungi/plant/animal interactions affect more than just one organism.
In New Zealand, flightless moas, dodos, and other extinct birds were once essential to both tree seed and fungal dispersal. The dodo had a strong beak for opening tree seed pods, and might well have dined on snails as well. Snails, slugs, and other insects feed on secotoid and hypogeous fungi such as Thaxterogaster and Tuber (personal experience. In Oregon, Nitulidid beetles are frequently found in Rhizopogon, Hymenogaster and Tuber sporocarps. These beetles are so infrequently found that they are identified the sporocarps they are found in.
This inter-relatedness is paralleled in Pacific Northwest forests, with truffles, California Red-backed voles, Northern Spotted owls, and at least 60 other different animal species currently confirmed to eat truffles, as confirmed by truffle spores from fecal pellets.
Animals known to consume truffles include deer, elk, Mountain goat, rabbit, opossum, pika, woodrat, marmot, bear, gopher, coyote, martin, weasel, chipmunk, squirrel, mice, racoon, vole, and shrews. Bird species known to eat truffles include California quail, Wild turkey, Steller’s jay and Gray jay. (Maser, Trappe, Nussbaum. 1978. “Fungal-small mammal interrelationships with emphasis on Oregon coniferous forests.” In Ecology, 59: 799-809. Maser, C.; Claridge, A.W.; Trappe, J.M. 2008. Trees, truffles and beasts: how forests function. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press. 281 p)
Pat and John Rawlinson observed blue jays eating truffles in their backyard, then dug some truffles and discovered a new species. That was 20 years ago.
Northern Spotted owls dine on California Red-backed voles and Northern Flying squirrels, both of which are primary truffle mycophagists during 6 months or more of each year.
In the 1980’s Chris Maser caught a live California Red-backed vole, and shipped it overnight to Dr. James M. Trappe. Trappe received the vole late in the day. He weighed the animal, and put a similar weight of fresh truffles in the cage with it. The following morning Trappe found the vole dead and the truffles gone. An autopsy on the animal showed it had died … of starvation. It is therefore believed that California Red-backed voles must eat their body weight (or more) in truffles each day to survive. Chris Maser proved the California Red-backed vole was not endangered at all. It was likely the most common animal of forest lands west of the crest of the Cascade Mountains. There may be 3,000 to 5,000 voles per acre of forested land. They are rarely seen because … they are mostly nocturnal and spend most of their life underground.
Voles travel less than 100 yards from where they are born to where they die, according to Chris Maser. Northern Flying squirrels probably travel no further than a mile or two from they they are born to where they die. And Northern Spotted owls fly 30 miles each day.
Two questions for scientific research spring to mind: Which animal species is likely to disperse truffle spores further? What animal species have secotoid fungal spores in their scat?
So maybe slugs and snails aren’t as colorblind as once thought?
Sounds like a fun experiment in the making..
Your beautiful blue mushroom, Steve, is not just another pretty face, but a springboard to some fascinating thoughts and ideas. Thanks for posting your amazing and thought provoking finds.
If I didn’t click on this observation I would never have known it was a secotioid fungi.
There is some really excellent theories here, after studying the secotioid fungi Weraroa novaezelandiae I have come to the conclusion that it is not birds that are the main means of spore dispersal as has been suspected but native slugs and snails, I have studied the dung of these macro organisms that is left around the holes eaten in the fruit bodies with my microscope and it consists
exclusively of the undamaged spores, these tiny snails live inside the hollow rotted tree fern fronds that this mushroom favors as it’s fruiting substrate.
The dung can be seen around the hole that has been eaten in one of the fruit bodies in this
It would be interesting to see a cross section of a mature fruit body and some micrographs, does this fungi have any distinct fragrance?
If it requires to be eaten, then the bower bird theory is obviously not right. I have never seen one with a nibble out of it, but I have seen insects eating it. Are insects a possibility? Some certainly see in colour. Other fungi is obviously being eaten, but I guess that the eater may be extinct in this area. This used to be one of the world’s largest areas of sub-tropical rainforest, but there is almost none left. It makes the wildlife theories difficult. By the way, there are a couple of books by Andrew Parker on colour and vision. These are “In the blink of an eye” and “Seven deadly colours”. While he does not mention fungi he does look at the link between colour vision and colours in nature. He suggests that most colours in life have evolved for a reason. It’s just too difficult to produce colours for them to be accidents – except things like chlorophyll of course, where the green is incidental.
Here is the Ross Beever article I referenced earlier. It’s old and he has had 16 years to come up with more info but he hasn’t published anything that I know of. I got to collect with him when I was in NZ, he does have some fascinating theories on this subject.
Beever, R.E. (1993). Dispersal of truffle-like fungi in New Zealand, in R.S. Hill (ed.), Southern Temperate
Ecosystems: Origin and Diversification 22. Hobart, Australia.
I have seen Microporus xanthopus and Pycnoporus sanguineus in the dung of the Southern Cassowary in Mission Beach area of QLD (I was going to post it on MO, but…) For the most part it seems that they are the only bird in AU that makes fungi a regular part of it’s diet.
So what about in NZ? which not only had ten species of Moa until humans arrived but lots of other flightless and ground-dwelling birds pecking at and eating, fungi? I posted Phallobata alba last May, which has a weird grub-like club above ground and it’s gleba under ground. Now if you were a bird wouldn’t you want to eat that?
When I first saw Paurocotylis pila I picked it up and broke it in half and then threw it back down because I thought it was a fruit (it’s not that I don’t like plants…) It was only after I found Leratiomyces erythrocephalus a little further down the trail that I questioned myself about what I had picked up earlier and on the way out found it again and realized that it was P. pila (it does look just Like some of the common red fruits that are on the forest floor) Would a bird notice the difference? or would it just gobble up whatever red “fruit” was in front of it before the bird next to her got to it.
Steve, I like your bowerbird theory. It’s true that the Satin Bowerbird doesn’t care what it is as long as it’s blue, most of the bowers that I saw had water bottle caps, pieces of blue tarp, blue straws, etc. but some of the more remote ones had Crimson Rosella wing and tail feathers, and blue fruits & flowers so why not blue fungi. But they aren’t eating their bower decorations so it wouldn’t be helpful to become a secotioid fungus in this case.
The Golden Bowerbird bower I saw was decorated with lots of Usnea lichens…
Here are a couple of abstracts from papers on mycophagous mammals of Australia and a titles of a few more papers that I couldn’t get anything on. If anybody has journal access to the Ecological Society of Australia… (could you send them to me)
One hundred and thirty-eight scat (faecal) samples from 17 mammal species native to forests of northeastern Queensland were examined for the presence of spores of both ectomycorrhizal and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Spores of mycorrhizal fungi were found in 57 percent of scat samples representing 12 animal species (Aepyprymnus rufescens, Antechinus godmani, Bettongia tropica, Hypsiprymnodon moschatus, Isoodon macrourus, Melomys ceruinipes, Perameles nasuta, Rattus fuscipes, R. tunneyi, Thylogale stigmatica, Trichourur uulperula, Uromys caudimaculatus). Spores were absent in scats of Antechinus stuartii, Dasyurus hallucatus, Dendrolagus lumholtzi, Petaurus australis and Mesembriomys gouldii. Spores of ectomycorrhizal fungi occurred in 38 percent of scats, and all but one of these samples were from Eucalyptus-dominated sclerophyll forests. Based on the frequency and abundance of spores in scats, five mammals were considered active consumers of hypogeous mycorrhizal sporocarps in sclerophyll forests (A. rufescens, B. tropica, I. macrourus, P. nasuta, and U. caudimaculatus). Individual scats of these animals generally contained a range of distinctive spore types. Spores of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi were found in low abundance in almost 40 percent of scat samples collected, from both sclerophyll forest and rainforest habitats. We suggest that the majoriry of these spores were acquired incidentally through ingestion of soil during foraging activities on the forest floor. Glasshouse inoculation experiments in which seedlings of Eucalyptus grandis and Sorghum bicolor were inoculated with scat material from several species of mammal demonstrated that the spores of ectomycorrhizal and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi retained some viability and colonized the roots of host-plant seedlings. Insufficient information is known of the ecology of mycorrhizal fungi in Australia’s tropical forests to speculate as to the implications of these findings for forest conservation and rehabilitation.
Mycophagy in small mammals: A comparison of the occurrence and diversity of hypogeal fungi in the diet of the long-nosed potoroo Potorous tridactylus and the bush rat Rattus fuscipes from southwestern Victoria, Australia
M. K. TORY, T. W. MAY, P. J. KEANE, A. F. BENNETT
Austral Ecology, Volume 22, Issue 4 , Pages460 – 470, 1997 The Ecological Society of Australia Inc.
Three broad dietary categories—fungus, plant and arthropod—were identified from faecal samples of two species of small terrestrial mammal in forest vegetation in southwestern Victoria. Fungal material formed the major component of the diet of the long-nosed potoroo Potorous tridactylus throughout the year and of the bush rat Rattus fuscipes during autumn and winter. Fungal material was most abundant for both species during autumn and winter and significantly less common in spring and summer. These results confirm previous studies which found P. tridactylus to be highly mycophagous throughout the year and R. fuscipes to be strongly mycophagous seasonally. Particular consideration was given to the composition of fungi in the diet. Fungal spores in faecal material were assigned to spore classes, which represent one or more fungal species that have similar spore morphology. Twenty-four fungal spore classes were recorded, but for both animal species most of the fungi consumed were from seven major spore classes. The proportions of major spore classes in the diet of both animals were generally similar, even though the composition of spore classes differed markedly across seasons. Minor differences between species in the fungi consumed may be related to differences in selectivity, foraging, or microhabitat use. If fungal resources are limiting, competition for such resources may be important in this and other small mammal communities. The amount and diversity of hypogeal fungi consumed by the two animal species makes them both important spore dispersal agents in forest ecosystems. The capacity of R. fuscipes and other seasonally mycophagous mammals in this role may be more important than previously recognized, especially in habitats where species of the Potoroidae are absent.
Lee, J. 2003. The importance of hypogeous fungi in the diet of the re-introduced brush-tailed bettong
(Bettongia penicillata) at Venus Bay Conservation Park, South Australia. School of Earth
and Environmental Sciences. Adelaide University, Adelaide.
Mammal mycophagy and fungal spore dispersal across a steep environmental gradient in eastern Australia
VERNES KARL, DUNN LINDA
Austral Ecology. 2009 34(1). p.69
This one has lots of good info…
Rodda K, Wayne A, Maxwell M, Robinson R, Fielder J, Bougher N et al. [Sicard W] (2008). Resources. In Progress report of the Woylie Conservation Research Project: diagnosis of recent woylie (Bettongia penicillata ogilbyi) declines in southwestern Australia: a report to the Department of Environment and Conservation Corporate Executive
this is interesting….Why do any fungi have color for that matter any way….hmmmm, Remember that some animals can also see colors we cant see,,,,ie may me there are some other invisible (to us ) colors in Mushrooms that attract animals insects ect….I heard some where that that is why Beees go to real flower s instead of fake ones when experiments have been done….using fake an dreall flowers of the same shape size smell color (at least visible color)…they found that there are invisible coulors that attract them… i will have to look into this………..
I’ll see what I can find… but Ross Beever has done work on NZ birds eating fungi and I have seen papers on the spores in the dung of Gilbert’s Potoroo; (a small marsupial that it’s primary diet is hypogeius fungi) and other papers on Australian mammals that are eating fungi.
There is a bird in the Australian bush called the bower bird. It collects blue things to decorate it’s nest (on the ground) in order to attract a mate. It will collect anything blue, and the bluer the netter. Perhaps this one could be ideally suited to that. The mushroom tends to fall off when ripe, and bower birds would love to collect it, and it is in bower bird country. Just a wild thought.
turkeys also eat morels (directly observed behavior), and most gallinaceous (ground dwelling) birds, including chickens, will peck at anything likely on the ground. Turkeys may well eat truffles that have been dug up and left lying around by mammals.
NZ birds may be in many niches, but again that doesn’t mean that they are targeting food items, esp. colorful mushrooms, by color. Kiwis, flightless birds that forage exclusively on the ground, use scent and a highly sensitive beak tip to locate food items, both above and below ground.
I did locate a very interesting webpage on Australian birds, mammals and mushrooms, with a theory that highly colorful secotioid fungi might mimic edible seeds and fruits and thereby get animals to eat them. No empirical evidence, though.
I was surprised to hear that several species of migratory birds dig up and eat
truffles as they pass over the Kuwaiti desert, but again, these are certainly not targeted by color. Not sure how they find the darned things, but the Bedouins apparently use their fondness for these fungi to bait in the birds and catch them, to be eaten in turn.
Here’s the link; it’s a good read:
I remember Jim Trappe talking about finding truffle spores in turkey scat and since most of the mammalian niches in New Zealand are taken by birds, it’s not surprising that they are truffle eaters as well.
Marsupial color vision: http://www.physorg.com/news11919.html
And here’s an excellant response about color perception in animals in general, including our relatively inadequate human color vision!:
I would still like to see the paper that links bright colors in mushrooms with mammalian (non-primate) foraging behaviors. Empirical evidence or speculation?
Some of the above-ground secotioid forms have quite dull colors, like the PNW Gastroboletus and the Macowanites, and little or no scent. So there must be more ways that they manage to spread their spores than might meet the eye…;)
Mammals mostly have color vision, but with only two colors: brown and blue. Basically they have red-green color blindness. Primates see in color. Marsupials … not sure. Birds see four primary colors.
Hypogeous secotioid fungi use animal dispersal and use scent. Epigeous secotioid fungi may use wind (e.g. puffballs) or scent (e.g. stinkhorns) but some of these down-under ones seem to use visual appearance to attract animals.
A possible dispersal mechanism I’ve not heard of being seen in the wild is to have a puffball-like fruit body that sticks to fur, burr-like, and sheds spores; that sounds like it would be real effective, and plants sometimes disperse seeds this way, but I’ve never heard of a fungus evolving to do so.
birds do, but not many instances of bird/fungi interactions that I can come up with, again, tho my experiences are concentrated in the west of the USA.
Most truffles/secotioid fungi use scent to attract dispersers, not sight.
slugs will eat anything along their path, regardless of color or scent.
do you have a link to a paper about this color theory Paul? this is the first that I have heard of it.
for more information on Aussie sequestrate fungi. Dr. James Trappe took a bunch of his grad students to the Northeast coast of Australia about 1994-95. In the two weeks they were there, they found some 300 new species, some of which were fruiting on the sides of trees. As high as 30 meters up. Presumption is that many of these fungi are reliant on native animals for dispersal, which includes some of the rarest marsupials currently known. Down under is unusual, to say the least. The earth worms are over a meter long and live in the top of the trees, and the truffles fruit on the side of trees far from the ground.
Paul – that is a very enlightening bit of ecological theory. Rarely get much of that. Thanks very much for sharing.
In general, that seems like a good theory. It is true that bright coloured fungi tend to be more common in the forest than in the open (my observation), and particularly common in the dense rainforest. Of course, there are the toxic mushrooms which may also by brightly coloured. What about them? It does seem to be more than just incidental colours for many of these mushrooms. It must cost a bit to be bright blue, and stay bright blue.
that brightly colored secotioid is an adaptation to animal dispersion of spores instead of wind dispersal.
It’s just coz you’re upside down. Everything is as it’s meant to be here.
with its gills sequestered and its spores no longer shot off like most basidios.
interesting that this is fruiting in a rainforest…we see most of ours out West in North America under xeric mountain conditions. The sequestrate form in North America has been theorized as an adaptation to dry conditions. Those darned OZ shrooms keep breaking the mould!!!
No. It has truffle like gills – very convoluted. It grows on fallen wood, often in puddles in the rainforest. I’m a bit amazed that nobody has noticed it before as it is like a bit of fallen blue plastic on the path – it is so blue. It tends to fall of the stem very easily and I first thought it was a pouch fungus. But I’m no expert. I’m taking my advice from Dr Tom May, Senior Mycologist at the Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens.
Is that is a type of polypore?
what is UP with those blue mushrooms down under, anyway??!
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