Fungus Could Be Among Fastest Lifeforms on Earth

Illustration for article titled Fungus Could Be Among Fastest Lifeforms on Earth

Slow-growing fungus may be one of the fastest lifeforms on Earth — at least when it comes time to spread its seeds. A group of scientists recently used ultra-high-speed cameras to record spores being shot out of fungi (pictured). Some of them were launched out of the fungi at 55 mph, zooming several feet before landing in a spot where they could grow their own fungus. How does the humble fungus manage to shoot its spores at such insane speeds? It's all about osmosis. According to the researchers, who published their study last week in PLoS One:

[Fungi] with the longest ranges are powered by hydrostatic pressure and include "squirt guns" that are most common in the Ascomycota and Zygomycota. In these fungi, fluid-filled stalks that support single spores or spore-filled sporangia, or cells called asci that contain multiple spores, are pressurized by osmosis.

Basically, the fungus contains, as the scientists put it, "squirt guns" that are under such tremendous pressure that when they burst open they push the spores out at the speed of a car on a U.S. highway. Fastest Flights in Nature [via PLoS One]

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We are more closely related to fungi than to green plants. It's thought that this is why yeast infections can be so hard to get rid of.

It's a really fascinating form of life that gets overlooked in zoology classes.