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The Sciences

Fungus Opera

The LoomBy Carl ZimmerSeptember 17, 2008 5:04 AM


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Have you ever seen a fungus firing its spores to the tune of the Anvil Chorus from Il Travatore? I'll take that as a no. Nicholas Money, an expert on fungi at Miami University, has been playing around with very fast video. Ultra fast. As in 250,000 frames-a-second fast. He knew exactly what this kind of video was made for. To film fungi that live on dung as they discharge their spores. These tiny fungi can blast spores as far as six feet away, boosting the odds that they'll land on a clean plant that a cow or other grazing animal may eat. The fungi develop inside the animal, get pooped out with its dung, and fire their spores once more. Money's results were not just significant, but beautiful. The fungi fire their spores up to 55 miles an hour--which translates to an acceleration of 180,000 g. Money calls it "the fastest flight in nature." Money has just published his results in the journal PLOS One, and his students, in a justified fit of ecstasy, have created the first fungus opera. Behold:

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