Mushrooms release astonishing numbers of spores. A large bracket fungus discharges 30 billion spores every day, which amounts to five trillion spores during its six months of activity each year. Spore release in mushrooms, which is a kind of jumping mechanism, is driven by the movement of microscopic droplets of fluid over the spore surface. This was studied by A. H. R. Buller, “the Einstein of mycology,” in the first half of the twentieth century. Many questions about the mechanism were solved very recently, with the aid of high-speed video cameras. Spore discharge in bracket fungi entails precise geotropic positioning of millions of tiny tubes beneath the fruit body. The mechanism has been adjusted in different species by adaptations in spore shape and size. Its success offers a beautiful illustration of the principles of Darwinian evolution.
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