Ecology of Fungi


Animal dispersal is important for some fungi because an animal may carry fungal spores considerable distances from the source. Fungal spores are rarely completely degraded in the gastrointestinal tract of an animal, and many are able to germinate when they are passed in the feces. Some “dung fungi” actually require passage through the digestive system of herbivores to complete their lifecycle. The black truffle—a prized gourmet delicacy—is the fruiting body of an underground ascomycete. Almost all truffles are ectomycorrhizal, and are usually found in close association with trees. Animals eat truffles and disperse the spores. In Italy and France, truffle hunters use female pigs to sniff out truffles (female pigs are attracted to truffles because the fungus releases a volatile compound closely related to a pheromone produced by male pigs.)