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Dispersal is Not Just for Plants

Plants are not the only organisms to produce spores; the fungi produce spores as well. The mushrooms or the toadstools that we find growing in the countryside are spore producing structures of fungi which grow in the soil. The mushroom or toadstool is the result of two fungi of the same species coming into contact in the soil. Together these two fungi produce the mushroom. Reproduction takes place inside the mushroom and as a result spores are produced.

Mushrooms © Paul Billiet

The spores of mushrooms are microscopic so they are easily carried on the wind. To catch the wind the spores are released above the ground from underneath the cap of the mushroom.

The inside of a mushroom cap showing the gills © Paul Billiet

Not all mushrooms have gills. Some, such as the cep, have tubes under the cap which release spores.

Other fungi, such as the earth balls, produce their spores in a spherical structure. When the earth ball is ripe its skin dries and splits. The shock of raindrops or other objects falling onto the earth ball causes clouds of spores to be released.

An earth ball which has split open revealing its spores © Paul Billiet

When it is ripe (fully developed) the earth ball splits and releases its spores.

Another method of dispersal is used by the stink-horn fungus. This fungus gets its name from the strong smell of rotting flesh that it produces. The smell attracts flies which pick up spores on the their legs as they crawl over the cap of the stinkhorn. The flies then disperse the spores of this fungus to other habitats.

A stinkhorn fungus © Paul Billiet

The stinkhorn fungus disperses its spores by attracting flies.

Using seeds and spores is necessary for plants and mushrooms to populate new areas because such organisms have no means of locomotion. Other types of organisms do not need seeds and spores because they can move. When animals populate an new area, they get there using their own means of locomotion: walking, swimming, or flying.

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