Discover the fascinating fungus Pilobolus crystallinus aka 'dung cannon'
Fungi aren’t generally known for their speed, yet one group is quicker off the mark than perhaps any other organism on the planet, the Pilobolus crystallinus
The minuscule fungus Pilobolus crystallinus, which are known both as hat-throwers and dung-cannons, – grow, feed and breed on dung.
How does Pilobolus crystallinus reproduce?
In order to reproduce, their spores are cast onto the grass, where they are swallowed by grazing mammals and then re-deposited on the pasture amid a steaming pile of nutritious manure.
The problem is that grazing mammals, quite understandably, tend to avoid excrement when choosing which patch of grass to eat. So the hat-throwers have evolved a spectacular way of projecting their offspring far and wide.
How fast is Pilobolus crystallinus?
The spores develop in a microscopic bundle that sits atop a fluid-filled bladder on a stalk. The bladder expands until the internal pressure causes it to squirt out its contents in a powerful jet, propelling the spores away at speeds of up to 90kph.
Even more impressive is that they reach their top speed in just a few millionths of a second – a rate of acceleration exceeding that of a bullet shot from an AK-47 rifle. Even though the fungi rarely reaches 5cm in height, this small organism can project its spores up to 200m away.