Saturday, November 30, 2013

Mushrooms make wind

These are not the eggs of the great auk, but a bunch of shiitake mushrooms. Not only are they striking in color and pattern, but in their newly identified ability. As it turns out, shiitake and oyster mushrooms can make their own localized weather pattern! Whether or not there is a breeze to carry away their spores, the mushrooms are able to send them on their way. Researchers in fluid dynamics from Trinity College and UCLA confirmed the discovery using high-speed video cameras and mathematical models. "We show that fungi actively manipulate their local fluidic environment by altering the buoyancy of the air surrounding the mushroom using a combination of water vapor and active cooling," write the scientists in their abstract. In other words, before they disperse their spores, mushrooms release water vapor which cools the air around them and causes a convective dynamic that gets the air moving. This allows them to propagate even when the air is calm, they are growing close together, and their caps are only millimeters from the ground.

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