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  • Eric B

Spores! How they interact in our environment.

Mushroom spores are single-cell organisms that contain the genetic material required for mushrooms to reproduce. The term spore derives from the ancient Greek word spora, meaning "seed, sowing", related to sporos, "sowing", and speirein, "to sow". Spores are typically located in the under area of a mushroom cap where the "gills" of the mushroom are. Not all mushrooms create spores, some were just not created to, or have not been exposed to the correct elements like food, water, and light. Spores are all around us, they are microscopic and float through the air, and are carried by animals or wind. A single mushroom can create and release billions of spores every day. Humans consume anywhere from 1,000 to 10 billion spores every day! So why have we not turned into the monsters from "The Last of Us"? Because our immune systems keep us safe. Our lungs create immune cells which invade these spores and pretty much trick them into destroying themselves aka cell suicide. There are some diseases that can happen when a human's immune system is not strong enough to fight off these spores. Most you have probably heard of some of these, but if not they are: rhinitis, asthma, allergic bronchopulmonary mycosis, allergic fungal sinusitis and hypersensitivity pneumonitis (the most common inflammatory condition caused from mushroom spore exposure).

While these spores are floating all around us, researchers have found that the spores actually attract tiny drops of water that gather together to help form the clouds in the sky. If you think about it, one mushroom can create billions of spores in one day, that means around 50 million tons of spores are released into the sky every year, that is equal to the weight of 1.25 million semi-trucks just floating around in the sky. A spore can launch as fast as four miles per hour, and gets its momentum from the water collection. You know how on a hot day, you grab a cold glass of water, set it down, and when you come back the outside of the cup is covered in water? This is from the change in temperature between the cold glass and the hot air outside. It causes water vapor in the air to slow down and become liquid again. This is close to what happens to spores in the air. They attract water and as they continue to move, more water gets attracted to them. So when billions of spores are in the air, billions of drops of water can form causing rain clouds. But I live in Colorado and it doesn't rain all the time, what the heck!!?? If you have noticed, places where it stays dewy or rains all the time like tropical rainforests, there tends to be a lot of mushrooms, a lot more than you would find in Colorado.

So the next time it pours rain in your area, it doesn't just rain cats and dogs, it rains mushroom spores too!

Agaricus Bisporus Basidiospores Dartmouth Electron Microscope Facility, Dartmouth College

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