Tag Archives: nematodes

This fungus will trap you (if you are a Nematode)

Blogging about Peer-Reviewed ResearchFungi, like most organisms, take an active role in finding food for survival. When thinking about hostile takeovers by fungi, one probably thinks about mycelia growing towards nutrients, rotting plant matter, the ability to extract nutrients from a living host, or perhaps producing toxins or secondary metabolites that can affect the host. However, some fungi can take an even more active role and trap their animal hosts (when that animal isn’t much bigger than you). A paper from earlier this year on “Evolution of nematode-trapping cells of predatory fungi of the Orbiliaceae based on evidence from rRNA-encoding DNA and multiprotein sequences” describes the evolutionary history of a group of fungi able to trap and eat nematodes. Nematode trapping fungi have been investigated experimentally since at least the 30s (Drechsler, Mycologia. 1937, Drechsler, J Wash Acad Sci. 1933), and some more recent studies of the relationship of the groups (Rubner, Studies in Mycology. 1996).

In the recent PNAS paper, the authors used multi-locus sequencing to reconstruct a phylogeny and history of large group of carnivorous fungi and reconstruct the ancestral history the prey trapping mechanism of either through constricting rings or adhesive traps. They were able to reconstruct the likely order of the evolutionary steps needed to make the stalk and trapping cells. They found that the most common type of trap, an Adhesive Network, was the earliest evolved trap.

Some movies also demonstrate how these fungi make their living.