Chapter 34 : The Christmas Fungus on Christmas Island

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The fungus has a mushroom that looks startlingly familiar whether it is collected from France, Russia, Alaska, California, or New Zealand; the mushroom is bright red and has white spots. This is the species most often targeted by the fairies and bunnies drawn for children’s books. The assumption that fungal spores are passively dispersed by air and water is at odds with obvious biomechanical adaptations to reach or create wind. In nature, fungal dispersal may normally involve active dispersal, as well as wind and water, but now humans also carry species among continents. Humans move species by accident and also to support agriculture, forestry, and horticulture. The fungi function as extensions of a root system and facilitate access to scarce soil resources. For this reason, tins of soil with fungal spores were shipped from Europe and across southern Africa. Microbes are rarely the targets of conservation, but data for plants and animals suggest that introduced species cause harm to local biodiversity. Extinctions are associated with introduced species that spread and fill a habitat. Fungi may go unnamed and ignored, but it seems quite likely that climate change, habitat loss, and also introduced species will cause both a massive rearrangement of current fungal biodiversity and extinctions.

Citation: Pringle A. 2012. The Christmas Fungus on Christmas Island, p 251-254. In Kolter R, Maloy S (ed), Microbes and Evolution. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555818470.ch34
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