Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dung cannons (Pilobolus crystallinus)

I put some of the rabbit pellets in a damp box and they have developed a fine vestiture of the dung cannon fungus (Pilobolus crystallinus).

25012009 Pilobolus crystallinus 005

There is a much better picture here.

This humble microfungus must be one of the world's most remarkable plants.  The little black spore capsules on the top of each thread-like, crystalline stalk can be fired for up to 2 metres and can accelerate from 0 to 45 mph in the first millimetre of flight - apparently the second fastest accelerator in nature.  The pressure in the stalk below the capsule can build up to an astonishing 7 kilograms per square centimetre (100 pounds per square inch) to enable this.

Pilobolus is also the name of a celebrated American dance company (one of the founding members studied the fungus with his father when he was young). They are an amazing group as their web site shows and somewhat more elegant than my crop of fungi on rabbit dung.

I feel quite pleased, however, that close scrutiny of a rabbit dung pellet has opened such interesting doors.

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