Fungus (Panaeolus sphinctrinus)

They may not be everyone's cup of tea but fungi really are an interesting aspect of nature. Fungi serve a vital role in breaking down waste and returning materials to the soil where they can be re-used and this is often wood which it helps rot down but not always. Panaeolus sphinctrinus (no commmon name, sorry!) specialises in recycling animal dung.

It has a distinct life cycle (which it shares with some other fungi species) where it thrives in animal dung helping break it down and returning it to the soil. From the mycelium that are performing this function it produces the fruiting bodies (the cap that we see) and the spores from the cap fall on to the ground amongst the grass. Animals come along grazing and eat the spores along with the grass, the spores pass through the gut and are ejected inside the dung where the fungus starts to break it down! Incredible when you think that once a cow-pat, for example, has been totally broken down by the fungus, the fungus will die because it has nothing left to consume so it is dependant on a new cow-pat being generated to continue its survival through its spores. Without the fungus (and other creatures of course) there would be heaps of dung so the fungus is essential in maintaining an equilibrium. However, it cannot totally rid us of dung as it needs more to survive.

That is the wonder of nature.

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Find out more about the nature of Dorset at my website www.natureofdorset.co.uk

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