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Posts Tagged "fungi"

The Artful Amoeba

Fungi Like You’ve Never Seen Them Before

Rhizopus_stolonifer_petersen_200

When I took Mycology 101 in grad school, the textbook situation was so bad that the one we used came on a CD-ROM. Not came with a CD-ROM. It was one. My professor grumbled that printed mycology texts all had their flaws and none was great. The illustrations were usually fair to poor. The drawings [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

An Illustration of the Many Ways to Be Multicellular on Planet Earth

dictyostelium_aggregating_pd_200

How many ways are there to be multicellular on Earth? You know, organisms made of more than one cell? Let’s see . . . plants, animals, and fungi. Three, right? Wrong. I give you “Representative Diverse Origins of Multicellularity …”, aka, Fig. 1 from the paper “The Evolutionary-Developmental Origins of Multicellularity” in the January issue [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Fungi on the March: My New Feature Story for Scientific American

cryptococcus_neoformans_wiki_cdc_pd_200

Healthy humans are strangely impervious to fatal fungi. It usually takes something like a shot in the spine with a contaminated drug to give fungi the necessary upper hand. Sure, fungi can be maddening skin irritants, but when was the last time you heard that someone with a normal immune system had died of a [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

How Your Morning Commute Resembles a Fungus

neurospora_crassa_nuclear_traffic_screenshot_200

In many fungi, the DNA storage compartments called nuclei are not prisoners of the cells they reside in, the way they are in animals and plants. Instead, fungal nuclei are free to move about the cabin. They flow through the joined, tube-shaped cells of fungi like busy commuters, and experience many of the same dynamics. [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

There’s Darwin’s Fungus!

darwin_cyttaria_screenshot_200

Last winter I wrote a post called “Darwin’s Neon Golf Balls” about a fungus called Cyttaria that Darwin collected during his journey on the Beagle. The fungus has a fascinating alien shape and neon orange color when fresh. At the time, I wrote: According to the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew, Darwin sent his specimen [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Yeast: Making Food Great for 5,000 Years. But What Exactly Is it?

Candida_albicans_wiki_cc_Y_tambe_200

Fire was the first force of nature tamed for cooking. Yeast was second. In the early days of ancient Egypt, around 3100 B.C., there lived a ruler named Scorpion, who probably did not look like The Rock. When Scorpion died, pyramids had not yet been invented, so he was buried in a broad, low tomb [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Wonderful Things: The Hidden Beauty of the Horse Dung Fungus

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Note: This is the third installment in the “Wonderful Things” series. What you are about to see is a truffle-like (although it seems to fruit above-ground) fungus called Pisolithus tinctorius. It has many names, but in the United States it sometimes goes by “dyemaker’s puffball”. From the outside, it sits on the ground like an unassuming [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

American Pecan Truffle May Be Coming to a Plate Near You, By Way of Extremely Cute Courier

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With a winning combination of cuteness, digging-osity, and the precision focus of a heat-seaking missile, Este the truffle dog has helped blaze a trail together with scientists that could both enliven American diets and help support American pecan growers. Have a look: Este appears to be a Lagotto Romagnolo, an Italian hunting dog originally bred [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Darwin’s Neon Golf Balls

cyttaria_darwinii_bruce_muller_200

The Southern Hemisphere’s collection of alternate-universe creatures is not limited to emus, echidnas, and monkey-puzzle trees. There are also crazy down-under fungi. And one of them was first encountered and collected for science by none other than the Big Man himself: Charles Darwin. Darwin was on his course-of-western-history-altering Beagle cruise when he was probably captivated [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Were Weirdo Ediacarans Really Lichens, Fungi, and Slime Molds?

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Does these look like lichens to you? According to Gregory Retallack, they should. Yesterday, Nature published an article by Retallack that makes a radical claim: the Ediacaran Biota (635-542 mya) of bizarre creatures that preceded the Cambrian Explosion were not pneumatic semi-mobile marine animals, but instead sessile land-dwelling lichens and protists living high and very [...]

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Lab Rat

Fighting bacteria with weapons from fungi

Microscopic image of Penicillium sp. which produces Penicillin as a secondary metabolite. Magnification:200

In order to survive, organisms produce small molecules known as ‘primary metabolites’ which help it to grow, develop and reproduce. Examples include nucleic acid used to make DNA, amino acids to make proteins, and simple sugars. Once the organism is established it will often start to produce ‘secondary metabolites’. Secondary metabolites are not vital for [...]

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Lab Rat

Fungi that steal genes from bacteria

A tree in Sicily covered in different types of lichen, credit below

In order to survive in complex and interesting environments in the wild, bacteria have a whole arsenal of chemical products that they make within the cell. These chemicals are used for signalling, defence and communication between bacterial cells. One particular group of these chemicals is called the polyketide group, which I have a particular fondness [...]

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Lab Rat

How Barley Protects Against Invasion

A ladybird on barley - image by T. Voekler, credit below

Unlike animals, plants do not have a circulating blood system containing cell capable of fighting off bacterial invasion. Instead, they have to rely on various other techniques, which I covered in detail way back on my old Field of Science blog. One method they use is to kill off cells that are close to a bacterial or [...]

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Lab Rat

How fungi steal zinc from your body

One of the most famous human fungi, Candida Albicans, growing on a petri-dish. Content Providers(s): CDC/Dr. William Kaplan Creation Date: 1969

I’ve been getting quite into the human microbiome lately, covering both vaginal bacteria and digestive tract bacteria. One thing I thought it might be interesting to highlight is that we talk about the human “microbiome” rather than the human “bacteriome” because it contains a range of microbial species including bacteria, fungi and even possibly blastocysts. [...]

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Lab Rat

How to explore a protein

Aspergillus mould, from wikimedia commons.

I’m doing a journal club presentation tomorrow, where I take a paper apart in front of my lab through the medium of powerpoint. It’s a nice short little paper but it does bring up some interesting points and also works as a prime example of a very common way that scientists go about exploring how [...]

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Observations

The Race to Catalogue Living Species before They Go Extinct

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The U.S. has spent several billion dollars looking for life on other planets. Shouldn’t we spend at least that much finding and identifying life on Earth? That is the argument behind a taxonomy analysis by a trio of scientists in Science, published on January 25. They argue just $500 million to $1 billion a year [...]

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Observations

Unwanted Housemates: Dishwashers Provide Habitat for “Extremotolerant” Fungi

Dishwasher in a kitchen

A dishwasher makes a nice addition to any home. But the appliances also make a nice home for a number of fungi, some of which are pathogenic, according to a new study. A group of researchers from institutions in Slovenia, the Netherlands and China took samples from the rubber seals inside 189 dishwashers from 18 [...]

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Thoughtomics

Frog-killing fungus is a skin-loving hybrid

This Limosa Harlequin Frog has died from chytridiomycosis. Notice the reddening of the skin and the lesions on its belly.

These are not the best of times for amphibians. All around the world, populations of frogs, salamanders and newts are declining. At least 489 species (7.8% of all known amphibians) are nearing extinction. More than a hundred of these endangered species have not been seen in recent years, and have likely gone extinct already. Who [...]

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