Schizophyllum commune

Thanks to Ruth for today’s write-up, and C.Wick of Atchison, Kansas for today’s photograph. C.Wick (of the UBC Botanical Garden forums) has posted a couple additional photographs in this thread on the BPotD Submissions Forum, including one with the “pleasing fungus beetle”. Thank you both! Ruth writes:

There is a fungus among us! And a sexy one at that! Unlike plants and animals, fungi have multiple sexes, or mating types. Schizophyllum commune has a whopping 28,000 distinct sexes. Some of the more primitive fungi have as few as two sexes, making this a superstar amongst fungi. When we think of different sexes, we picture different sexual structures such as pistils or stamens in plants. Fungi don’t exactly have different structures or organs for the mating process — instead, wherever they touch, they can exchange nuclei. Tom Volk writes extensively about sexual reproduction in fungi in his article on Schizophyllum commune.

Commonly referred to as the split-gilled polypore, or, more commonly, split gill, this wood-decaying fungus can be found on every continent (particularly in deciduous forests). The name literally translates to schizo meaning “split”, phyllum meaning “leaf” (referring to its shape like a palmate leaf) and commune meaning “common” because of its widespread distribution.

This being the week of Halloween, look for something frightful in each article. This fungus has been known to cause human mycosis. For example, it has been observed growing into a young girl’s nasal cavity where it began producing fruiting bodies. It has also been found invading other parts of the respiratory system, especially the lungs. It has been discovered as the cause of brain abcesses, chronic maxillary sinusitis, bronchial mucoid impaction and other scary stuff! BOO!

Schizophyllum commune

14 responses to “Schizophyllum commune”

  1. Katherine

    Wow! That is scary enough for me!

  2. Ken

    Now that I know the dangers I’ll be more careful when photographing them. Tom Volk’s article is excellent.

  3. sally

    I have never commented before although I have been enjoying your photos and articles for a long time.
    The BOO thing is alot of fun, but really scarey! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Meg Bernstein

    Wow! All the way around, WOW!

  5. lavender

    its realy scary for me ! and do not want to eat it anyway .
    thank you ruth and daniel !

  6. Lynne

    If the different sexes don’t have different structures, what distinguishes one from another? How does one define a sex in this context?

  7. C.Wick

    Awesome information! Very exciting that one of my fungi photos made it so others could get an eyeful of these amazing creations. Was able to recieve more info here as well that I didn’t previously know about them (28,000 different sexes! WOW!)Thanx everyone for viewing and commenting on this image and for using it for the Botany Photo of the Day!

  8. Natalie

    Such a lovely photo of such a pretty brain-sucking monster! ;)Seriously, I never knew a fungus like this could colonize someone’s nasal cavity, never mind affect the brain. The things I learn here! Happy Hallowe’en, and thank you again for these great photos.

  9. Barbara

    My mind was boggled enough by the 28,000 sexes, and then, invasion of the nasal cavity! Freaky!

  10. elizabeth a airhart

    i will be waiting for you daniel
    just never know i would not open my door
    at night we like to walk then
    for hallows eve belongs to us

  11. Daniel Mosquin

    Hi Lynne,
    This is a succinct explanation of fungal sexes:
    “Sex is conserved in virtually all organisms, from bacteria and fungi to plants and animals, and yet the mechanisms by which sexual identity are established share both conserved general features and are remarkably diverse. In animals, sexual identity is established by dimorphic sex chromosomes, whereas in fungi a specialized region of the genome, known as the mating-type locus, governs the establishment of cell type Identity and differs in DNA sequence between cells of different mating-types.” (from this abstract)
    So… it’s genetically determined. It’s been about fifteen years since I last encountered fungal sexes in the classroom, so I’m admittedly fuzzy on the details.

  12. Sheila

    Stunning photo.
    Fascinating write up
    Thank you both.

  13. Lynne

    Wow. It’s hard to wrap my mind around that definition of sexual identity. It’s so very different than animal sexuality. Thanks, Daniel.

  14. Margaret-Rae Davis

    These are just beautiful and I learnnd so much from the write-up. Such a good photograph.
    Thank you,
    Margaret-Rae

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