Long ago, a potato famine caused misery for the Irish. A fungus had proliferated throughout the country, infecting an important food. Many Irish people migrated to the United States for more hope in farming success and better living situations.
A few years ago, the frog populations began to decline rapidly. The frogs would seem to be paralyzed, floating on the water. A graduate student awaits the opportunity to get funding for his research on the impact of fungus on amphibians. The Batrachochytrium dendrobatitis fungus grows on the skin of frogs, disallowing the ability to breathe. The graduate student’s grant for research is finally approved.
Before terrestrial plants existed, Mycorrhizae began to grow on the roots of aquatic plants. This symbiotic relationship allows the plants to gain more access to nutrients as the fungus can extend through the soil to absorb as much as possible. Mycorrhizae can also grow inside the plants stem walls, helping the plant to efficiently utilize nutrients. In return, the fungi receive sugars. This relationship allowed aquatic plants to spread out and move towards dry land. The fungus assisted plants new to the terrestrial environment with absorbing nutrients from dry soil.
Fungi are classified as sexually and asexually reproducing organisms with intricate growing systems. As I learn this interesting material, I think to myself these are such a small, even microscopic species that can impact our society in vast ways. This species still holds mysteries as much of its mechanical ways of utilizing nutrients and growing its hyphal tips to expand throughout the surface lacks support of research.
After learning such interesting material in a class with only eight people learning about mushrooms, mold, and society, one student expresses that fungi are “so weird”. My professor replies, “It’s not that they’re weird, we just haven’t taken the time to understand and appreciate their attributes”. My professor was right. Anything different from the building mechanisms of the human existence is uncanny to people. But it’s only a matter of exploring the odd or “weird” aspects of nature, which leads to gaining greater respect for the diversity of life.