Fungi differ from most other eukaryotes in that their vegetative body (i.e., the thing that grows as an individual and gives them body mass) shows indeterminate growth. Fungal mycelia will continue to grow and invade new substrates for as long as new substrates remain available and growth conditions remain satisfactory. You could take that statement to mean that fungi would just keep on growing until they became enormous, and that does happen in some cases. The largest known organism on Earth is a tree root pathogen known as Armillaria ostoyae, a clone of which covers an area of 890 hectares in the Malheur National Forest in eastern Oregon. It weighs in at around 150 metric tons and is at least 2400 years old.The unusual life style of Armillaria, however,enables it to get so large; it forms rhizomorphs that scavenge widely through the soil for nutrients and hosts.It is probably true to say that the majority of fungi are “microfungi” that live in very small habitats, like individual leaves, individual insects, or even smaller grains of soil. Like the extent of the habitat the rate at which the fungus can grow will also limit the extent of growth that can occur. For example, lichens can grow in some very extreme environments, from deserts to the Arctic wastes. In the Arctic, however, lichen growth is around 5cm in 1000 years, so colonies several thousand years old will be little more than the size of your hand. Nevertheless, unless other growth conditions impose a limitation, a fungus will continue to grow until it occupies all of the available substrate. Animals and plants cannot manage that.
KeywordsMating Type Clamp Connection Vegetative Compatibility Nuclear Migration Schizophyllum Commune
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Publications and Websites Worth a Visit
- Bartholomew, K.A., Marion, A.L., Novotny, C.P. & Ullrich, R.C. (1996). A case study in fungal development and genetics: Schizophyllum commune. In Fungal Genetics: Principles and Practice (C.J. Bos, ed.), pp. 371–384. Marcel Dekker, Inc.: New York.Google Scholar
- Dalgaard, J.Z. & Klar, A.J.S. (2001). Does S. pombe exploit the intrinsic asymmetry of DNA synthesis to imprint daughter cells for mating-type switching? Trends in Genetics 17, 153–157.Google Scholar
- Elliott, C.G. (1994). Reproduction in Fungi. Genetical and Physiological Aspects. Chapman & Hall: London, UK.Google Scholar
Historical Publications Worth Knowing About
- Blakeslee, A.F. (1904). Sexual reproduction in the Mucorineae. Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 40, 205–319.Google Scholar
- Buller, A.H.R. (1933). Researches on Fungi, vol. 4. Longmans: London, U.K.Google Scholar
- Buller, A.H.R. (1934). Researches on Fungi, vol. 5. Longmans: London, U.K.Google Scholar
- Buller, A.H.R. (1934). Researches on Fungi, vol. 6. Longmans: London, U.KGoogle Scholar