Agriculture
New Gene Fights Potato Blight
Hungry bug seeks hot meal
Flush-Free Fertilizer
Amphibians
Salamanders
Frogs and Toads
Poison Dart Frogs
Animals
Baboons Listen for Who's Tops
Crocodile Hearts
Return of the Lost Limbs
Behavior
Longer lives for wild elephants
Sugar-pill medicine
Video Game Violence
Birds
Cassowaries
Eagles
Roadrunners
Chemistry and Materials
Scientist Profile: Wally Gilbert
Picture the Smell
Atom Hauler
Computers
A Light Delay
Graphene's superstrength
A New Look at Saturn's rings
Dinosaurs and Fossils
Dinosaurs Grow Up
Dino-bite!
Winged Insects May Go Way Back
E Learning Jamaica
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
E Learning in Jamaica WIN PRIZES and try our Fun Animated Games
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
Earth
Sky Dust Keeps Falling on Your Head
Less Mixing Can Affect Lake's Ecosystem
Digging into a Tsunami Disaster
Environment
Plant Gas
Giant snakes invading North America
Food Web Woes
Finding the Past
A Plankhouse Past
Preserving Ancient Warrior Paint
Settling the Americas
Fish
Electric Catfish
Halibut
Codfish
Food and Nutrition
Strong Bones for Life
Building a Food Pyramid
Yummy bugs
GSAT English Rules
Problems with Prepositions
Pronouns
Subject and Verb Agreement
GSAT Exam Preparation Jamaica
Tarrant High overcoming the odds
How are students placed after passing the GSAT exam
March 21-22, 2013: Over 43,000 students will take the GSAT Exam
GSAT Exams Jamaica Scholarships
42,000 students will sit for the GSAT Exam in two weeks
GSAT Practice Papers | GSAT Mathematics | Maths
Access denied - Disabled boy aces GSAT
GSAT Mathematics
E Learning in Jamaica WIN PRIZES and try our Fun Animated Games
Math and our number sense: PassGSAT.com
Math Naturals
Human Body
Heavy Sleep
Sleeping Soundly for a Longer Life
Walking to Exercise the Brain
Invertebrates
Roundworms
Insects
Clams
Mammals
African Gorillas
Sea Lions
Sun Bear
Parents
What Not to Say to Emerging Readers
Choosing a Preschool: What to Consider
How children learn
Physics
The Particle Zoo
The Pressure of Scuba Diving
Speedy stars
Plants
Nature's Alphabet
Flower family knows its roots
Cactus Goo for Clean Water
Reptiles
Sea Turtles
Crocodilians
Chameleons
Space and Astronomy
Super Star Cluster in the Neighborhood
Killers from Outer Space
A Very Distant Planet Says "Cheese"
Technology and Engineering
Searching for Alien Life
Bionic Bacteria
Beyond Bar Codes
The Parts of Speech
Pronouns
What is a Verb?
Problems with Prepositions
Transportation
Robots on the Road, Again
Middle school science adventures
Reach for the Sky
Weather
Warmest Year on Record
Arctic Melt
A Change in Climate
Add your Article

Fungus Hunt

There are lots of ways to enjoy mushrooms. You can put portabellas on pizzas. You can sauté shitakes with butter and garlic. You can hunt for morels in the woods. Or you can study porcinis under a microscope. Scientists do all of these things—and more. Mushrooms belong to a major group of organisms called fungi. Not quite animals and not quite plants, fungi are turning out to be full of mysteries and surprises. Mushrooms pop up in forests at certain times of year in various places all over the world and then disappear completely without warning. Some are as big as a car. Others are too small to see without a magnifier. Their colors range from bright orange to purple to green. To add to the intrigue, it turns out that fungi are more closely related to animals than they are to plants—even though they look more like plants. Some types even seem to have ingredients that fight cancer, though others can kill you. "Once you get to know them, they really become interesting," says mushroom researcher David McLaughlin. More than just an ordinary mushroom lover, McLaughlin is curator of fungi at the Bell Museum of Natural History in Minneapolis. He's also a professor at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul. McLaughlin and other fungi experts estimate that between 1 million and 1.5 million species of fungi exist on Earth. Yet, only about 10 percent of them have been identified and named. "It's amazing how little is known," he says, "and how much there is to discover." Filaments and spores A few basic traits tie all fungi together. Most are made up of threadlike structures called filaments. They feed on dead and dying organisms. To reproduce, they send out spores instead of seeds. And the mushrooms that we see (and buy at the store) are just the fruits of fungi. Most of a fungus stays hidden underground. Across the fungus kingdom, however, there's a large amount of variety—in looks, lifestyle, and flavor. Some are delicious, while others are poisonous. Some grow on trees, while most grow on the ground. To get a better idea of exactly what's out there, McLaughlin and his coworkers are pulling together all the data published about mushrooms over the last 40 years. They're also building large computer databases to hold the information they collect. In the end, the researchers hope to piece together a fungal family tree. The tree should help explain how various types of fungi are related to each other and how different species developed over the course of evolution. "We're trying to fill in holes in the data so that people can understand how fungi evolved," McLaughlin says. There are also practical reasons for creating a fungal family tree. Hundreds of kinds of fungi cause diseases in people, including ringworm and athlete's foot. Some 5,000 types cause diseases in plants. Understanding which species are related to one another allows researchers to predict which ones might cause diseases and which ones might respond to certain treatments. Also, knowing how much diversity is out there is the first step in knowing if and when certain species start disappearing. Diversity and DNA McLaughlin uses various features of fungi to put them into categories, starting with the shape, size, color, texture, smell, feel, habitat, and manner of growth of the fungus itself and details of its cells, fruiting bodies, spores, hairs, and other structures. Other researchers use modern advances in technology to classify fungi. By comparing the genetic material DNA in two different species, scientists can determine how closely related these species are. In one recent study, McLaughlin says, researchers took samples of soil from high elevations in the Rocky Mountains. They found fungal DNA in the soil and were able to use it to identify an entirely new type of fungus. Taking a closer look at mushrooms is also revealing how much more there is than meets the eye in the wide world of fungi. "With new techniques, we've been able to say, 'Oh my. We thought these were the same things. But now that we look closer, we're able to say they're not the same thing,'" McLaughlin says. "Everyone assumes that if it's shitake, it's a shitake. Well, a shitake is not just one thing." The porcini group, too, appears now to include at least 35 species living across the Northern Hemisphere, not one or two species as previously thought. That's important because people have been using porcinis as medicine for thousands of years. These mushrooms have also been getting attention lately for their ability to destroy tumor cells. It's possible that not all types of porcinis provide the same benefits. Unfortunately, most of the studies previously published about these mushrooms are useless now, McLaughlin says, because the scientists didn't keep specimens of what they were looking at. It's hard to tell exactly which particular type of mushroom they were studying. Creating a new, large database will help researchers accurately classify the fungi they are working on. Having such specific information about these fungi will make their results more useful to other scientists. So, the fungi hunt continues, whether it's to learn more about these fascinating organisms or simply to identify something good to eat. Be careful, however. Don't eat any mushrooms that you find in the woods without checking with a teacher, parent, or mushroom expert first. Some mushrooms are poisonous enough to kill you.

Fungus Hunt
Fungus Hunt








Designed and Powered by HBJamaica.com™