Tetrapolar Fungal Sex: 50% More Ways to Get Lucky

by Jennifer Frazer on June 8, 2010

Little fungal bundles of joy: the sexual products (basidiospores) of the earthstar Geastrum triplex. The note in the lower left indicates that each increment on the scale bar is equal to one micrometer (the Greek letter mu is the bionerd abreviation for micrometer) -- which is one-thousandth of a millimeter. So each of these spores is 4-5 micrometers -- or 0.004 - 0.005 mm -- across. That's pretty typical for basidiospores, although the spiky spherical shape is not. Creative Commons Amadej Trnkoczy

In Killer Yeast from South America I briefly mentioned the strange sex lives of fungi, who have many different mating types instead of two genders. This, as you can imagine, makes it considerably easier to find a mate, among other advantages. My old mycology professor Kathie Hodge (who taught me just about everything I know about fungi) recently posted a more thorough exploration of the varieties of fungal sex and the implications thereof. She is a fabulous science writer too, and if you’re curious about the subject, check out her explanation “A Fungus Walks into a Singles Bar . . . “ at the Cornell Mushroom Blog. Or you could just go for the gratuitous Mutinus caninus dog stinkhorn video. Your choice. : )

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Cardy Raper July 16, 2011 at 3:28 pm

I worked on the sex life of the woodrotter Schizophyllum commune for nearly forty years, taking the studies of this fungus with thousands of sexes from classical to molecular genetics. I published a memoir about my life in science titled “Love, Sex and Mushrooms: Adventures of a woman in Science” in March this year. You might want to check it out on my website.

Victoria December 4, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Your link to the “A Fungus Walks Into A Single Bar…” is out of date. Here’s the up-t0-date link: http://blog.mycology.cornell.edu/2010/06/02/a-fungus-walks-into-a-singles-bar/

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