Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Okay, a recipe

Most of the what I get from Google news alerts are recipes. Not that I'm opposed to mycophagy, I just don't like posting lots of recipes that I haven't tried making or eating. But this one happens to be from Alabama, so I'll make an exception.

Paul Stamets says Fungi can save the world

Here's an interesting TED lecture (warning, 18 minutes long) by Paul Stamets, which outlines several ways in which fungi are very, very cool. He shows how fungi can bioremediate toxic spills, provide anti-viral pharmaceuticals, control pest insects, produce ethanol, and solve world hunger. See for yourself:

Thanks to my good buddy Dave for forwarding this along to me!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Otzi's fungi

Here's an article about a copper age mummy, Otzi, who died 5000 years ago in Europe, and happened to be carrying a few sporocarps about with him. The article refers to them as 'mushrooms', which irks me a bit, because they're conks, not really mushrooms. Mushrooms are really more fleshy, conks woody. But it's understandable given the level of myco-literacy among the laity. I once joked that I though mycology should be taught in the third grade. Probably not, but then it would be nice if mycologists had more company, I think.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cool video of fungi and Fungi

Here's a video of an Amanita muscaria sporocarp (mushroom) developing. It's missing my favorite part, when the universal veil breaks up and forms the white spots on the cap. This is what makes it look strawberry-like, at least in the red morphs. But it's understandable because the videographer probably wouldn't have recognized the mass as a Amanita muscaria mushroom until after the veil had started to break up.

Sorry I can't embed this, the embedding has been disabled. But it's a very cool video featuring time-lapse photography of some fungi growing. The music reminds me of the music from the Mushroom Men: Spore Wars, probably no coincidence.

It seems like a good time to mention the difference between fungi and Fungi. The first critter in the second video is a slime mold, which is a fungus, or more correctly, a fungus like organism. Stinkhorns, oysters, and the other mushrooms are all Fungi. What is the difference? Fungi with a capital "F" are of the Kingdom Fungi (Eumycota), which all share common ancestry. This includes chytrids, zygomycetes, glomeromycetes, ascomycetes, and basidiomycetes, and most of the Fungi formerly known as deuteromycetes.

With a small f, most fungi were considered to be closely related to the Fungi at one time or another, but all are now recognized as being more closely related to algae, or protozoa (a rather nebulous term). These include the oomycetes, like Phytophthora (species of which caused the Irish potato famine and sudden oak death), or myxomycetes, like the slime mold shown in the video.