Microhabitat and Relationships: Mushrooms

Ever thought of something growing right beside your steps? This is noticed when I hopped down the slope at King Edward VII Hall in NUS. It is a mushroom. It seems that it is most probably under the Order Agaricales, Family Psathyrellaceae. During observation, the bunch of mushroom was among piles of dead leaves. After a few days, the mushroom started to die out and some cleaner came to ‘blow’ all the dead leaves away. On the ground, I could see nothing but soil and busy ants. Since it died naturally, I assumed there will be more ‘little’ mushroom shooting out soon. However, it didn’t happen.

Mysterious Mushroom

Mysterious Mushroom

Here, we forgot about something, the micro-habitat (Molles, 2010). The habitat the mushroom grows in is a micro-habitat, but any changes to it, will actually decide its survival. The dead leaves were actually decomposing on the ground providing nutrient to the ground. This is the decomposed nutrient that is needed by fungus like mushroom that can’t undergo photosynthesis. The moment the leaves were blown away, not only does the mushroom loss its nutrient source, it has lost its protection and camouflage from the mushroom. Hence, it is not suitable for new generation of mushroom to grow on. Hence, from here, we could roughly draft the relationship between organisms in a microhabitat.

Relationship in Within

Relationship in Within

Besides, the event of ant staying with the mushroom has strike my interest. I looked through some journals to understand that there is Ant-Fungus mutualism whereby Attini (such as leaf-cutter ants) will be responsible in nurturing and protecting fungus like mushroom from mould while mushroom provides a resting place for them (Nash, 2007). This is a symbiosis relationship between mushroom and ants but parasitism between ants and the tree, interesting huh? In this case, it is very hard to deduce whether the phenomenon I saw was on the same relationship due to insufficient observation data.

Garling, L. (1979). Origin of Ant-Fungus Mutualism: A New Hypothesis. Biotropica , 284 – 291.

Molles, M. C. (2010). Ecology: Concepts and Applications. New York: McGraw-Hill .

Nash, D. (2007, March 30). The Attini. Retrieved April 15, 2010, from Ants and their interactions with other organisms: http://www.zi.ku.dk/personal/drnash/atta/Pages/attini.html

Ulrich G. Mueller, T. R. (2001). The Origin of the Attine Ant-Fungus Mutualism. The Quarterly Review of Biology , 169 – 197.

Wade, N. (2003, January 28). Ants, Mushroom and Mold: An Evolutionary Arms Race. Retrieved April 14, 2010, from New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/28/science/life/28ANTS.html?pagewanted=1

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