Truffles trees and animals_life in the black box


Truffles, trees and animals: life in the black box

Speaker: Professor Jim Trappe, Oregon State University

Plant Pathologist A. B. Frank

In 1885, Plant Pathologist A. B. Frank announced a startling discovery: certain fungi that colonize feeder rootlets of trees do not cause disease; instead they are essential for uptake of nutrients from soil by the trees. He termed these associations “mycorrhizas”, i. e. “fungus roots”. This unorthodox idea was hotly contested for decades, but so much evidence accumulated over the following half century that the beneficial functions of mycorrhizas became accepted as fact. Now we know the great majority of earth’s plants require these fungi for survival and growth. But wait, there’s more! Over millions of years, many of the fungal partners evolved to produce spores in belowground fruiting bodies, i.e. truffles. Diverse animals co-evolved with truffles to cherish or even depend on them for food. These animals, ranging from soil insects to bears, birds and reptiles, digest the truffle tissues except for the spores, which pass through their guts unscathed. Where excreted, the spores may germinate to start new colonies amongst host root systems. Mycorrhizas have evolved independently in many places around the world, both northern and southern hemispheres. Whether in hot or cold, wet or dry habitats from earth’s far north to the tropics to its far south, Nature’s multitudes of evolutionary experiments arrived at the same answer for the interacting fungi, plants and animals.

This event is free and open to all, registration is not necessary. Tea and coffee will be served in the library from 17.30 and a wine reception will follow the lecture.

This event follows a full day event: 'Fungi, Keystones of Evolution and Earth Processes'. Registration for the day event is essential. To go to the event page, please click here.

Fellows can be formally admitted at this event. If you are an elected Fellow and you would like to be formally admitted on this evening, please contact the office in advance.