Herbarium (to be more exact - fungarium) of the future - Fungi

In this section descriptions of various live organisms (animals, plants, fungi, etc.), which could live on the Earth in Neocene epoch. The section will be supplemented as new ideas about possible ways of evolution of life will appear. If readers will not find here any species placed here earlier, it means that it is a reason to search for a new chapter in English version of "The Neocene Project". Forum

Amphibians and Reptiles


Fungi - oomycetes

Predatory water mold (Xenosaprolegnia carnivora)
Order: Saprolegniales (Saprolegniales)
Family: Saprolegniaceae (Saprolegniaceae)

Habitat: freshwater reservoirs of temperate, subtropical and tropical latitudes of Old and New World, Meganesia.

Picture by Biolog

Among mushrooms there is a big group which representatives live exclusively in water. These ones are primitive oomycetes fungi which because of their appearance had received the common name “water mold”. Mycelium of these fungi forms cotton wool-like white cover on rotten substrata of animal origin. Frequently oomycetes develop on open wounds of fishes, corroding their tissues up to bones (fungus Saprolegnia leads such way of life).
One of Neocene species of oomycetes had passed to more effective way of feeding – it had turned to passive predator. Predatory species usually meet among soil fungi. They form sticky heads and trapping loops, in which microscopic invertebrates get. Predatory water mold catches prey exclusively with the help of glue. This fungus forms special plentifully branching hyphae. Cells forming these hyphae have elastic walls and can stretch strongly. On tips of such hyphae traps form – they look as wide sticky heads. Each head represents a drop of glue of gel-like consistence, “stretched” on brush-like branching terminal cells of hypha.
This oomycete develops exclusively due to live organisms caught by it. Predatory water mold forms sticky locks about 10 cm long in still places of ponds and rivers, among vegetation. With the help of sticky heads this fungus catches tiny organisms like protozoans, rotifers and other worms. When small animal is pasted to trapping head of fungus, substances from covers of its body diffuse into slime. Their occurrence serves as stimulus for growth of cells on which the drop of glue is stretched. If caught animal starts to try to escape, fungus hyphae do not come unstuck from its body due to the extensibility of cellular walls. Moreover, returning to initial position, hyphae of fungus draw caught prey back, and it may casually paste to some other sticky heads. The cells forming trapping head, reach a surface of prey body in some minutes. They start to emit the enzymes destroying cell environments of prey, and sprout in its body similarly to roots, dissolving and absorbing substances of prey body. In some hours no rests remain from soft-bodied, and from small larvae of crustaceans and insects only chitinous armours keep. Large colonies of predatory water mold represent real danger to tadpoles, fry of small fishes and larvae of shrimps. But this fungus itself serves as food to some water animals – to adult crustaceans and molluscs. It is eaten also by some fishes and ducks.
Spores of predatory water mold are covered with protective mucous membrane, and are easily carrying to other reservoirs on legs of waterfowl. It explains practically global settling of this fungus, which is settled with the help of migrating birds. Besides populations of this fungus are rather homogeneous genetically, and it does not have any geographical variations.
In the field of an area with seasonal climate the mycelium of predatory water mould, as a rule, dies off at formation of ice on surface of water, and survives in winter as spores. In areas where the temperature of water does not fall below +4 ?С, predatory water mould successfully winters as a mycelium. Spores of this fungus sprout on the organic substratum of animal origin - usually on body of dead small animal, on the rests of prey of any predator, or on shells of eggs of fishes or amphibians. Proteins of substratum serve for initial development of small lock of mycelium with several trapping heads. The further development depends on success of hunting of this fungus.

Fungi - ascomycetes

“Cadaver flower” (Cadaveroflos dimorphus)
Order: Hypocreales (Hypocreales)
Family: Ergot fungi (Clavicipitaceae)

Habitat: tropics of Old World – Central Africa, Zinj Land, Southern and Southeast Asia.
Evolution of fungi is, probably, not as appreciable, as evolution of animals and plants. However, fungi are the major participants of processes of decomposition. Among them there are also numerous symbiotes and parasites of plants and animals, and some fungi have adapted to lead predatory way of life. Basically these are microscopic ground fungi which catch various microscopic worms and other invertebrates by loops and gyphae nets. However, among predating fungi there are also larger species.
The territory of tropical rainforests of Old World is inhabited by large carrion-eating dipteran species, infectiofly (Dolichomusca infectans). It searches for carrion, using the keen sense of smell, and lays larvae in it. Though this insect has fine sight sense, in searches of carrion it is guided only by sense of smell, and it is actually indifferent for it, how the substratum having a “correct” smell looks.
This feature of behaviour of insect is used by some species of fungi which breed and live due to scavenging insects. One of these fungi is freakish “cadaver flower”. It is a fungus rather precisely imitating carrion for attraction of insects eating it, including infectiofly. Life cycle of “cadaver flower” includes two phases of development. Imitation of carrion takes place at “vegetative” stage of life cycle. From spore of fungus the mycelium grows, which develops in vegetative rests – it is a rarity in the order to which mainly parasitic species belong. Developing mycelium forms without fertilization a kind of “false fruiting body”, laying directly on substratum – it is a product of evolution of sclerotium, which now represents original “vegetative” generation in life cycle of the fungus. This formation is vaguely similar to a flower with the irregular-shaped petals, laying directly on the surface of substratum. Edges of this formation are slightly raised above a substratum. Actually, “false fruiting body” represents an apothecium characteristic for ascomycetes. This formation is two-layer. Its surface inverted to substratum is grey and leathery, and its middle is penetrated with numerous strings of mycelium directed into substratum. The surface inverted upwards has jelly-like consistence, is colored reddish-pink and has an expressed smell of decomposed meat. Spore-bearing sacs do not develop in it, but the jelly-like mass is plentifully penetrated with threads of mycelium. The insects involved with smell of carrion, gather on “cadaver flower” in thousands. They creep on jelly-like mass, taste it and even leave on it larvae –this fungus imitates a smell of decomposed meat so precisely. But then they fly out, carrying away on legs a part of mycelium. And then, of course, having bad memory, insects catch in the same trap again, visiting other specimens of “cadaver flower”.
As a result of flights from one fungus to another on legs of insects in the rests of jelly-like mass parts of mycelium of genetically different specimens of fungus. It is a stimulus for the further development of “cadaver flower” and its passing to the second, sexual phase of development. Conjugating mycelium of different individuals starts forming of fruiting body. Hyphae of fruiting body penetrate into cuticle on leg segments of insect and gradually penetrate its body entirely. The fungus infects an insect, develops in its body and within several hours simply kills its prey. Then fungus starts to develop as saprotroph, and the body of dead insect serves as a substratum for initial stages of development. Spore-bearing stage of fungus considerably differs in shape from “false fruiting body”. From stigmas, mouth and anus of dead insect true fruiting bodies emerge, rise on thin stipes and produce spores. They represent bell-like conic heads 2 - 3 mm in diameter and up to 5 mm in height on very long stipes. The basis of stipe is dense, but the top part, right under the head, is very flexible. At the slightest breeze from the shaken head threadlike spores laying in sacs among friable mass of mycelium strings are thrown out. On suitable substratum from them the mycelium develops, forming “false fruiting body”, imitating carrion.

The idea about existence of this species of fungi was proposed by Arthropod, the forum member.

Honey-bearing xenocordiceps (Xenocordiceps meliferus)
Order: Hypocreales (Hypocreales)
Family: Ergot fungi (Clavicipitaceae)

Habitat: northern hemisphere, temperate and subtropical latitudes, forests.
Some ergot fungi known in human epoch were parasites of insects. Sprouting in a body of an insect, fungus gradually killed it and then formed a sporocarp, and its spores attainted new insects. In Neocene epoch among ergot fungi new species of such parasites have evolved. One of them is honey-bearing xenocordiceps, which passes only a part of life cycle on insects.
Sporocarps of honey-bearing xenocordiceps develop on dead vertebrates of small size – birds or mammals. This mushroom frequently settles on prey of various predators and takes part in decomposition processes. Congestions of sporocarps of this species look like thickets of grass of white color, where each “blade” represents a separate sporocarp looking like a mouse-tail. The fungus attracts numerous flying insects with transparent sweet drops, which are secreted on the surface of sporocarps. But in such entertainment a real danger of death to an insect is hidden – this liquid contains a plenty of fungus spores, which wait while the insect will drink this liquid.
Spores of honey-bearing xenocordiceps infect an insect and sprout in its body. The fungus keeps an insect alive within several days – it is necessary for successful continuation of life cycle. The behaviour of the infected insect changes – now it does not eat and does not copulate, but only searches for places where it is better for the fungus to grow. Infected insects fly on corpses of small animals, orientating by smell. Thus on corpses even infected butterflies may be met, which usually are not attracted by carrion.
When a suitable substratum is found, the insect lands on it and does not move any more. The fungus begins to grow actively and kills an insect within approximately one hour; then it sprouts from natural orifices of its body. From died insect mycelium strings expand and penetrate into the substratum. Substances produced by this fungus have expressed antimicrobic properties and can kill even insect larvae. If the fungus infects a dead animal in which maggots already live, it suppresses their life activities: they do not eat and do not grow, perishing gradually. On large corpses around of the fungus colony a kind of “sanitary zone” is formed, where insect larvae do not live. The fungus gradually expands and forms sporocarps. They have no antibiotic properties, therefore involve new insects.
Mycelium of honey-bearing xenocordiceps mummifies tissues on which it grows. This fungus winters in such tissues, and forms small sporocarps in the spring, which are enough to involve new insects and to begin new life cycle.

Madness fungus (Theriodementor murinus)
Order: Hypocreales (Hypocreales)
Family: Ergot fungi (Clavicipitaceae)

Habitat: Eurasia, except for Far North and mountain areas of Central Asia.

Picture by Biolog

Due to biologically active substances produced by mycelium ergot fungi were used by people for medical purposes. In Neocene these fungi began to use the rich set of chemical substances for other purposes – fungi capable to operate the behaviour of vertebrates had evolved. One of their species is a small parasitic fungus which has got the name madness fungus for its properties. This species is a distant relative of honey-bearing xenocordiceps (Xenocordiceps meliferus), which has developed the life cycle of another kind.
Madness fungus parasitizes mainly small mammals – rodents, insectivores and less often chiropterans. This species attaints tissues, keeping its victim alive for rather long time – for about several weeks. It changes behaviour of infected animals considerably, making them less cautious. The infected animals begin to behave safely and aggressively: they do not hide, run in the forest openly and noisily, search and bite relatives and animals of similar size. Especially dangerous among them are infected bats, which begin to fly in the daytime and can attack even large animals. The most part of such animals perishes in some weeks from exhaustion as they feed much worse. But more often they fall prey of various predators. In saliva of infected animals amoeboid cells of fungus with thin walls are found, which begin to divide actively in blood. Large animals cope with the infection, only at the weakened individuals signs of infection are visible: predators begin to bite their own paws or tails from time to time, and herbivores butt or kick bushes and tree trunks. If immunity is strong enough, the organism of an animal overpowers an infection.
Small animals usually perish after infection. On the dead animals sporocarps of this fungus develop – yellowish club-like heads on thin stalks. Their surface is covered with drops of sweet liquid attracting various insects. The main carriers of this fungus are mosquitoes. Mosquito males suck a liquid secreted on sporocarps, and in their organisms, the fungus begins to develop. It attaints their male gonads, and at the copulation with females males infect them. After the copulation in female’s organism the development of the fungus begins, and it infects salivary glands of an insect. Such females begin to attack mammals and spread amoeboid cells of this fungus, infecting the stung animals. The birds stung by infected insects do not fall ill – the high body temperature interferes with the development of fungus.
Sporocarps of the madness fungus do not endure dryness and the elevated temperature, therefore deserts of North Africa and Arabia serve as a reliable barrier to settling of this mushroom to Africa. Also the mushroom is not cold-resistant and consequently can not grow in areas with long winter. Bats have an opportunity to heal from this fungus, running in the hibernation - at this time their body temperature decreases, and the development of the fungus is slowed down a lot. In areas of a seasonal climate the madness fungus winters in rodents, being transferred through their bites.

Gri-gri fungus (Grigrimycos magicus)
Order: Hypocreales (Hypocreales)
Family: Ergot fungi (Clavicipitaceae)

Habitat: tropics of Southern Asia, a symbiote of bokor ants.

Picture by Biolog

In human epoch among ergot fungi many forms parasitizing on insects were known. In Neocene their diversity is as great, as in human epoch. Usually such mushrooms, when infecting an insect, quickly bringing it to death and form a sporocarp on its corpse. But one species of these mushrooms has developed symbiotic relations with bokor ants (Mycophoros bokor) living in forests. This species of insects has the special caste supplied with mycangium pits on their bodies, where pieces of mycelium of this fungus are kept. Carriers of the fungus penetrate into colonies of other ant species and leave there mycelium of gri-gri fungus, dooming these colonies to unenviable existence and using them as a source of food.
The fungus penetrates into organisms of insects through tracheas or through elastic cuticle in places of joints of an armour. It begins to expand in the host’s body, penetrating into its head and infecting its brain. As against the majority of related kinds of parasitic fungi, gri-gri fungus does not cause total death of the infected insects, developing in their bodies for a long time. It changes considerably the behaviour of hosts, though does not interfere with normal existence of their colony. All changes in behaviour become obvious at an attack of bokor ants: the infected insects do not attack these robbers and allow them to plunder their colony, carrying away larvae and pupae without any obstacles. The fungus also shortens life expectancy of the infected hosts, making it approximately one third shorter. The dying insect searches for a colony of bokor ant by smell and “capitulates” to them, perishing on the tracks laid by ergates of this species. The infected insect perishes, hanging back down on the grass leaf. From a corpse of an insect a sporocarp sprouts, looking like little thin snow-white tree with needle-like branches. Fungus carriers from among bokor ants search for such fungi by smell and scrape off mycelium and sporocarps from corpses of insects, hiding it in their mycangiums. The fungus gets an advantage due to effective “address settling” of it by ants. If there are no bokor ants nearby, gri-gri fungus can settle independently with the help of spores and infect new hosts, not involving bokor ants.

The idea about existence of this fungus species was proposed by Morgot, the forum member.

Tempting inannomyces (Inannomyces hypervenustus)
Order: Hypocreales (Hypocreales)
Family: Cordycipitaceae (Cordycipitaceae)

Habitat: Eurasia, forests of temperate and subtropical zone.
Parasites represent an integral part of ecosystems. Every biological species has a set of the specific and nonspecific parasites adapted to the life on the present species. Evolution of parasites takes into account features of the host’s physiology, and the parasite fits its own life cycle to them for more successful spreading.
Butterflies in temperate and subtropic zones of Eurasia are parazitised by the original fungus – tempting inannomyces, which is a close relative of fungi of Cordyceps genus. It develops in bodies of insects, killing them, but in order to breeding, it uses a natural appetence of heterosexual insects to each other during their breeding. This fungus species is spreaded in a population of insects, increasing the production of pheromones at the infected adult individuals ready to breeding, and infects insects at their copulation. Hence the name: Inanna is a goddess of fertility and love in Mesopotamia.
Influence of this fungus to organisms of butterfly male and female is different. Inannomyces is capable to exist in male organism for a long time, not killing it. At butterfly males the fungus affects only genitals, keeping an insect alive during rather long time: it is necessary for distribution of the species, because the fungus is transferred to females at the copulation. In fact, it is an original “venereal disease” of insects, inevitably resulting in lethal outcome. In male’s genitals, fungus forms tufts of filaments, which easily crumble to separate fragments and stick to the surface of genitals. Getting at the moment of copulation to the female’s organism, fungus quickly expands in its reproductive system and causes reorganization of its physiology. Eggs in female’s organism stop their development – they turn to a substratum, on which the further development of this fungus goes on. Female stays alive at this time, however it becomes sterile and starts pheromone secretion actively, involving as many males as possible, and they catch this fungus. Later the fungus sprouts in female’s tissues, causing fast degradation of its organism. Dying female searches actively for a fodder plant of its species, lands on it and quickly perishes. From its organism through its mouth, spiracles and an aperture of hindgut sporocarps of the fungus grow out – threadlike formations up to 30-35 mm long of brown color with white spherical heads spreading spores. Spores spread with the wind, and a part of them with a high degree of probability can infect the caterpillars of the butterfly fed on this plant.
Within one summer this fungus can give some generations, depending on the duration of life cycle of the host species. In conditions of a seasonal climate, the fungus winters in insects at the stage of pupa, from which the infected sterile insects burst, having normal sexual behaviour, reacting to pheromones and infecting healthy individuals with this fungus.

Aphid brush fungus (Aphidinervum sterlilsator)
Order: Hypocreales (Hypocreales)
Family: Cordycipitaceae (Cordycipitaceae)

Habitat: Eurasia, temperate latitudes, the parasite of plant lice.
Parasitic fungi affecting various species of insects were widely known in human epoch. The variety of insects in human epoch has suffered relatively small damage, and quickly compensated it in during the ecosystem restoration period. In Neocene the diversity and availability of insects as a food source for fungi grew in parallel to restoration of natural communities and distribution of forests. At this time in nature the new species of parasitic fungi have evolved, having mastered the development on various kinds of insects.
Aphids (plant lice) have suffered rather small damage in human epoch, and in Neocene they still represent a characteristic component of entomofauna of temperate latitudes, having numerous symbiotes and parasites. One parasite of plant lice is a tiny fungus named as aphid brush fungus. The sporocarp of this species is reduced in great degree because of the tiny size of its host species, and resembles a tiny translucent brush with thin stalk no more than 6 mm long. Inside a bunch of hyphae on the tip of a sporocarp ascs with wind-dispersing spores form. Spores of this fungus are also distributed on the body surfaces of ants and insects eating plant lice – they both are frequently found in colonies of plant lice and promote the infection of new colonies.
The first stage of infection of a plant louse takes place on the surface of its body soiled with sugary excretions (honeydew), where the spores sprout. Hyphae of the fungus penetrate into the body of insect through spiracles or gland ducts, and the fungus begins to develop inside the body of plant louse, transforming it to a kind of zombie capable only to eat and actually not reacting to external stimuli like touches of an ant gathering honeydew. The most part of hyphae of fungus sprouts to ovoducts of an insect and destroys posterity formed there. The fungus keeps a plant louse alive for a long time, and uses the nutrients synthesized in its organism, interfering simultaneously with its breeding. It actually turns to the supplier of food for a fungus. If it is necessary, the infected insect can move, and even drive away its congeners from the most attractive fodder sites.
When the fungus is ready to breeding, from plant louse’s ovoducts sporocarps of the fungus grow like tiny brushes. The infected insect may be easily distinguished among healthy individuals by a long thin brush of sporocarp of the fungus sticking out of its body upwards, and by less transparent body, if body covers at the present species are normally translucent – because of gyphae of the fungus inside the insect’s body. Spores are easily carried away by slight streams of air in underbrush and infect plant lice from other colonies, but the more reliable way of their distribution is an insect eating plant lice.
In an autumn, when in colonies of plant lice wintering individuals begin to develop, activity of the fungus decreases. It still infects insects, but enables them to breed. Such individuals lay wintering eggs already infected with a fungus. In the spring from them nymphs burst, in which the development of this fungus goes on. Also this fungus transforms some slightly infected females to wintering ones, giving them an opportunity to winter and to continue to feeding in the spring to enable the fungus to disseminate its spores. Also aphid brush fungus winters as spores on bodies of predatory insects.

“Forest goblet” (Eupelicomyces multicapitatus)
Order: Pezizales (Pezizales)
Family: Pezizaceae (Pezizaceae)

Habitat: Chile, humid Nothofagus forests.
Moderate – cold areas of Southern hemisphere in Neocene had kept approximately the same area, as in human epoch. Though South America had moved a little aside the South Pole, climate warming in Neocene has caused displacement of border of warm-moderate climatic zone to poles. Therefore the climate more-less similar to climate of the most part of Eurasia, in Southern hemisphere was generated only at the far south of South America. But also here it undergoes great influence from the part of ocean. Therefore moderately cold snow winter is characteristic for this area. Summer at the far south of South America is humid, about rather small amount of dry and hot days. Such weather is favorable for growth of various mushrooms.
Forests at the south of South America are formed by various species of southern beech (Nothofagus) – the kind of plants growing in temperate areas of Southern hemisphere from Mesozoic. Forests of this plant form a habitat for plenty of mushroom kinds. Also it is very remarkable, that right here instead of rich in life forests of Amazonia, the largest mushroom of South America, “forest goblet”, grows.
The body of mushroom consists of false tissue – plectenchyma, which represents a texture of mycelium fibers. It is lack of strenghtening tissue, therefore it is absolutely not feasible for a mushroom problem to grow up to the size of tree. “Forest goblet” exists in fact at the edge of mechanical opportunities of plectenchyma. It is the huge mushroom reaching one meter height. High humidity of air favours to growth of its huge fruit body. The fruit body of “forest goblet” represents huge ramified apothecium of yellow color with brownish shade. Edges of “pileus” have darker color – they are orange-brown. A consistence of fruit body is elastic, and the bottom part of stem of mushroom is gristly. Its “pileus” has strongly concave form, and after morning fog a lot of water accumulates in it. Streaming down along internal surface of apothecium, water washes off spores of mushroom. Inside the mushroom small birds frequently arrange original “swimming baths” for themselves, after which they carry spores of mushroom on their plumage. In middle part the stem of fruit body branches and forms some small cup-like slightly irregular-shaped pilei. If branching of stem takes place higher, instead of one “pileus” of rounded outlines “Siamese twins” – two, three and even more “pilei” grown together are formed. “Forest goblet” is not poisonous, but has bitter taste protecting this mushroom from rodents and birds.
There is one more secret of large size of “forest goblet” – this mushroom forms mycorhiza with southern beech, receiving from it some of organic substances instead of mineral substances. The mycelium of “forest goblet” actively participates in decomposition of wood litter, and its fruit bodies are formed, when in forest its greatest amount gathers – closer to middle dawn (in Southern hemisphere approximately in the beginning of April). “Forest goblet” forms mycorhiza with large species of Nothofagus forming a basis of forests of temperate zone of Southern hemisphere.
The close species also lives in forests: crested mushroom (Eupelicomyces cristatus). It is a mushroom of considerably smaller size, than “forest goblet”: the maximal height of fruit body is no larger than 15 centimeters. But its fruit bodies reach the significant size, because “pilei” of this mushroom are not rounded, but merged to longitudinal crests. The length of such fruit body may reach 30 centimeters. At the fruit body of crested mushroom some crests with spore-producing surface develop. Their edges are dissected to rounded lobes of reddish-brown color with bright orange edges. This species does not form mycorhiza and lives as saprophyte. Its fruit body emits the unpleasant smell involving insects, and more often spores of this mushroom are distributed by beetles. Fruit bodies of crested mushroom appear in forest at the end of summer and an early autumn.

Purgative mushroom (Dulcipeziza purgans)
Order: Pezizales (Pezizales)
Family: Pezizaceae (Pezizaceae)

Habitat: subtropical and tropical forests of Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, some locations in Hindustan; wood litter.

Picture by Biolog

A variety of life strategies related to interaction with animals at various stages of life cycle was typical for fungi of human epoch. In Neocene evolution of mutual relations between fungi and animals has continued, and some fungi have developed original strategies of survival.
On wet wood litter in forests of Eastern and South-Eastern Asia purgative mushroom lives. It is a representative of ascomycetes, which in due course of evolution has developed very simple strategy of mutual relations with the animals living in the neighbourhood. This mushroom is saprophyte on leaf litter; its mycelium penetrates it at the depth of several centimeters under the surface, where sufficient humidity for its growth is always kept. Seasonal prevalence in formation of sporocarps in the southern part of the range is not expressed; at the north of the range sporocarps of this mushroom form mainly at the end of spring and in the beginning of an autumn, when there is enough amount of rains. In the summer at the north of the range sporocarps are formed only at sufficient humidifying of the ground.
Sporocarp of purgative mushroom represents large bowl-like apothecium up to half meter in diameter, of dense, gristle-like consistence. Its edges are raised on 3-4 cm above the ground. From outside on the sporocarp grey аудедшлу cover passing to mycelium is present. Apothecium is full of dense slimy mass containing spores and has very bright citreous colouring of internal part. Contents of apothecium swells during the rain and rises above its edges. This mass has pleasant taste, and large herbivorous mammals willingly lick it off. Bright colouring makes this mushroom better visible in twilight of underbrush. The mass with spores, however, has laxative effect – hence the name of this mushroom. This is an adaptation for settling: having eaten it, the animal has time to walk off far enough. Due to activity of intestines of an animal, spores of mushroom pass through it safely and drop outside in liquid manure. Manure acts as a nutrient medium for development of spores. In addition, when licking off spores from several mushrooms, animal promotes the occurrence at the small site of forest of myceliums of several unrelated caryotypes at once; it favours to formation of new sporocarps of mushroom.
Also this mushroom is settled on feet of birds, which perch on edges of sporocarp and peck off the spore-bearing mass. It, probably, explains the existence of several sites of purgative mushroom growth in Hindustan, where the related species – vomitive mushroom (Dulcipeziza vomica) – lives. This species is similar to purgative mushroom, but differs from it in appearance and properties. Its sporocarps reach only 30 cm in diameter, and have lighter colouring of their internal parts. The swallowing of slimy mass with spores causes vomitting in the majority of herbivorous mammals, but rodents and primates eat it without any bad consequences. Carnivores frequently use this mushroom for stimulation of regurgitation of swallowed wool.

“Frog’s cup” (Dendrocalyx raninus)
Order: Pezizales (Pezizales)
Family: Pezizaceae (Pezizaceae)

Habitat: forests of Equatorial Africa, forest canopy.
In due course of evolution various species of live organisms belonging to systematic groups unrelated to each other can develop mutually advantageous strategy of cooperation – they enter symbiosis. On tall trees of tropical forests of Africa the unusual union of arboreal deafening frog (Decibellator abalienarus) and a mushroom called “frog’s cup” was developed.
Like the majority of the related forms, “frog’s cup” mushroom is saprophyte. Its mycelium sprouts in cracks of tree bark and in forked branches, where epiphytic plants grow and the foliage and other organic dust accumulate. “Frog’ cup” frequently grows among thickets of epiphytic ferns or orchids, actively taking part in decomposition of organic matter and forming the mycorhiza with epiphytic plants. Sporocarps of “frog’s cup” are rather large – these are cuplike apothecia with high edges, in which up to 300 milliliters of rain water accumulates. Apothecium has a smooth surface and rusty-brown color. Edges of sporocarp are slightly wavy, and an external surface is rough to the touch. Sporocarps of various ages grow in groups of 3-4 ones. Duration of existence of each sporocarp is about 3 weeks.
Internal surface of sporocarp of “frog’s cup” is smooth. On it ascs with spores are located and a jelly-like mass is secreted – it is the recipe strengthening the union of mushroom and frog. The deafening frog breeds exclusively in water accumulated in sporocarps of this mushroom. During their development, tadpoles scrape the mass secreting by “frog’s cup” mushroom and eat it. In this mass there is a lot of spores of this mushroom. Having got in a digestive path of the tadpole, many spores perish, but some sprout and infect a growing tadpole. It easily endures infecting by mushroom and does not decrease rates of growth. The mushroom is located mainly in epithelium of hindgut and is capable to exist for a long time in an organism of this amphibian. When tadpoles pass metamorphosis, they carry mycelium of “frog’s cup” to other trees. In the first weeks after metamorphosis the young frog distributes mycelium with its feces. Organism of animal gradually fights off the infection and is cleared of mushroom, but during the time of infection frog manages to carry mycelium far enough from the place of its birth. Frog’s feces serve as a substratum for initial development of mycelium.
Spores of “frog’s cup” also settle on feet of birds using sporocarps of mushroom for bathing or water drinking.

Spring ice mushroom (Cryomorchella vernalis)
Order: Pezizales (Pezizales)
Family: Morels (Morchellaceae)
Habitat: steppes of Three-Rivers-Land, Southern Ural, steppes of Southern Siberia.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov
(background: herd of porcippulas)

Mushrooms are very important component of ecosystems. These organisms occupy prevailing position among saprotrophs, and due to their vital activity processes of decomposition of dead organic substances proceeds much faster.
In steppes of Three-Rivers-Land each summer grass plentifully grows on. Herds of herbivorous mammals feed on it, but they succeed to eat not all growth of graminoids. When winter begins, rains and small layer of snow force the withered grass to the ground, and it starts to decompose. In early spring on slopes of hills warmed up by sun among yellowish-brown last year's grass mushrooms of white color appear. It is a species of mushrooms which plays a determining role in process of decomposition of vegetative rests in steppes of Eurasia with seasonal climate and cold winter. For the cold endurance and time of active growth it is named as spring ice mushroom.
This ascomycete has rather low competitiveness, and can be considered as original analogue of ephemeral plants among mushrooms. Its fruit bodies cannot be met in summer when in steppe other species of mushrooms grow. Their mycelium strongly suppresses growth of mycelium of spring ice mushroom, and this species as if vanishes from steppe to the most part of year. Within several months, since late spring up to middle of an autumn, spring ice mushroom is kept only as resting spores in ground.
When autumn and winter colds begin, the majority of mushrooms stop growing, and their mycelium develops much slower. Colds serve as stimulus for sprouting of spores of spring ice mushroom – its spores develop, when the day time temperature falls up to +5°С, and there are frosts at night. From late autumn till early spring the mycelium of this species develops on rests of last year's grass. In some places the mycelium of spring ice mushroom forms extended textures under layer of rotten grass. When the top layer of ground freezes through, growth of mycelium stops, but after the first days of thawing weather it renews.
In the beginning of spring, when the sun warms up the top layer of ground enough, spring ice mushroom for a short time turns to sun-worshipper. From under layer of last year's grass its fruit bodies appear plentifully. They may be so numerous, that some slopes from apart seem strewn with snow. The fruit body of spring ice mushroom is separated to small wrinkled pileus similar to dried up apple about 2 – 3 cm in diameter, and thin stem up to 15 cm high. These mushrooms grow very quickly, and the fruit body develops completely during approximately 3 – 4 days. Despite of fragile appearance, this mushroom has excellent vitality. It endures frosts and a snowfall which frequently come back in spring.
Spores of spring ice mushroom develop on the surface of its pileus, in thin layer of slime. The main carriers of spores of spring ice mushroom are steppe herbivorous mammals – porcippulas, harelopes and other animals. After winter food shortage herbivores willingly bite off pileuses of this mushroom, despite of its bitterish taste, and carry spores of mushroom with their manure. The cover of spores of spring ice mushroom is rather strong, and it is not damaging staying in gastroenteric path neither of mammals, nor of grubs of dung beetles.

Velvet Guano Mould (Speleomucor nycticoprophagus)
Order: Eurotiales (Eurotiales)
Family: Trichocomaceae (Trichocomaceae)

Habitat: New Zealand, humid floors of caves inhabited by roosting bats, large growths on mounds of decaying guano.
The spread of mankind across the globe, taking with them produce and industry, resulted in many of their afflictions and commensals spreading alongside them. Aspergillus mould easily spread to New Zealand via spores that settled upon produce and goods brought by man, and even afflicted the perishable goods brought there by people.
This common mould has various descendants in the warmer, humid parts of Aotearoa, and many other parts of the world, but the most notable form is the Velvet Guano Mould.
This species typically grows in clusters which coat decaying guano, on the floors of cave-roosting bat colonies. Individual growths may become so thick as to have a raised, bumpy texture of small knobs, and its texture resembles a sickly greenish-black velvet. As it is actively involved in the decay of bat guano, it partly serves as a commensal and symbiote of various small bats, and as such does not infect the respiratory systems of the bats with which it co-habits. Its spores may infect and cause aspergillosis in animals with a lower metabolism, such as frogs and lizards. Growths occur in areas of cave which are rich in guano, but in which the air is not too stale, as it requires oxygen to grow. This mould also very much likes high levels of humidity, and the warm confines of a bat-crowded cave are ideal for it.
Spores that spread to neighbouring areas may take hold on rotting vegetable matter or fallen fruit. This mould is asexual, and grows very prolifically when it has taken hold. Various kinds of scavenging and mould-eating insect, such as beetles, enjoy feeding on it.

This fungus species was discovered by Timothy Donald Morris, Adelaide, Australia.

Wasp nest cyttaria (Cyttaria nidus-vespae)
Order: Cyttariales (Cyttariales)
Family: Cyttariaceae (Cyttariaceae)

Habitat: the south of South America, forests.
Among characteristic representatives of mycoflora of South America there are Cyttaria mushrooms – ascomycetes of very characteristic shape parasitizing on various species of southern beech (Nothofagus) forming forests in the area of temperate climate at the far south of the continent. They have survived in epoch of global ecological crisis together with their host trees, and in Neocene, their evolution has continued. In southern beech forests of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego of Neocene epoch wasp nest cyttaria lives – it is a parasitic mushroom living on plants of Patagonian false hazel (Nothavellana antipodorum), the representative of Nothofagaceae family. This mushroom prefers humid microclimate of a underbrush where its host plant grows.
Sporocarp of this mushroom has wide conical shape; it ma frequently be extended along the branch of host tree, resembling wasp comb (hence the name). Sporocarps are formed under bark, and in due course of growth they break it off and expand; they are usually formed on the bottom side of the branch and extend from top to bottom while apothecia of the mushroom ripen and open. On vertical tree trunk they grow like a chain of small sporocarps with easily recognizeable structure of the bottom surface, being vaguely similar to sporocarps of a bracket fungus. The length of normally developed sporocarp may be up to 20-30 cm at thickness of about 2-3 cm. The flat bottom side bears numerous deepenings of apothecia immersed into its pulp; at still growing sporocarp they are closed with thin membrane breaking while it grows. An arrangement of apothecia on the surface of sporocarp is almost ordered, resembling a pattern of cells in combs of hymenopters. The young sporocarp at the stage of active growth is white or pale yellow; mature sporocarp has an expressed yellow colouring, darker in depth of apothecia, with brown or orange shade. At the ripening, sporocarp emits well distinct putrefactive sweetish smell. Spores of this species are carried by beetles, and also are distributed in feces of birds or tree-climbing mammals. Sporocarps growing lower above the ground are willingly eaten by ground-dwelling herbivorous mammals,which also disperse spores of this mushroom.

Layered carpet fungus (Haplocarnomyces stromatus)
Order: Carnomycetes (Carnomycetes)
Family: Protocarnomycetes (Protocarnomycetidae)

Habitat: Europe, deciduous forests of southern slopes of the Alpes.
In Neocene among ascomycetes the distinct group of carnivorous mushrooms – carnomycetes – had evolved. Their feature is formation of special trapping structure - pseudocarpophor. As against true sporocarp, pseudocarpophor is formed from haploid mycelium and lacks an ability to form spores. Its function is exclusively providing of a fungus with nutrients from the caught small animals.
At the majority of carnomycetes pseudocarpophor has a sophisticated shape and represents a trap, where insects are kept with the help of glue, strong “cotton wool” of hyphae or internal cavities, from which the way out is difficult. However, in Neocene nature there are also representatives of primitive group of protocarnomycetes, at which the primitive structure of pseudocarpophor is kept. One of their species is layered carpet fungus.
This fungus develops in humid microclimate of the deciduous forests growing on southern slopes of the Alpes. It can be met on the bottom side of tree branches, and on moss “cushions” and on the bottom side of stones. Actually, the pseudocarpophor is almost not present at this species: it represents simply dense mat of hyphae secreting sticky liquid, atop of which there is friable “cotton wool” of hyphae with dense cellular walls. This fungus resembles externally a cottony layer with casual dust and insectspasted to to it.
The trap for insects works very simply: the fungus develops in places, which are frequently used as a shelter by flying insects. In addition, it involves insects with a smell. When the insect lands on pseudocarpophor of this fungus, its legs immediately sink in “cotton wool”. Careless movements of an insect result to that its legs get deeper in this liquid and an insect appears pasted even harder. Trapped insects gradually die and are envepoled with mycelium quickly sprouting into them. Mycelium gradually covers them and forms a new layer atop of previous one. Old multilayered mycelium is usually loose and may be torn off by wind blows, but of the rests of hyphae on a substratum new layer is formed, continuing to catch insectsin proper way.
Sporocarps of layered carpet fungus are formed in a place of contact of two genetically different parts of mycelium. They represent tiny bowl-like apothecia of white color with smooth edges, which are placed directly on a substratum.

Tailed aphidiolysia (Aphidiolysia caudata)
Order: Carnomycetes (Carnomycetes)
Family: Protocarnomycetes (Protocarnomycetidae)

Habitat: Europe, Northern Africa, Near East.
In due course of evolution in the group of carniforous fungi carnomycetes some families have diverged, differing from each other in a structure of trapping sporocarp (pseudocarpophor). But along with the specialized representatives of carnomycetes in Neocene nature there are representatives of an early clade of radiation of these fungi, which pseudocarpophors are underdeveloped or absent at all. These fungi, however, have developed their own effective strategy of survival connected to predatoriness.
Tailed aphidiolysia is a tiny representative of carnomycetes: the size of its sporocarp is measured in millimeters. This fungus eats plant lice – small and intensively breeding insects. Due to this circumstance this fungus has virtually unlimited source of food.
Life cycle of aphidiolysia begins, when this fungus gets on sugary honeydew – dung of plant lice. Spore quickly sprouts and infects an insect, penetrating into its hindgut. The fungus gradually infects all internal bodies of a plant louse: its hyphae sprout between cells and fill in the body of an insect. The plant louse infected with fungus feeds actively and emits pieces of mycelium of fungus with its honeydew. If such honeydew will be eaten by ant, fungal hyphae from its mandibles can easily infect other plant lice. The infected plant louse changes externally: it gets “fat”, its covers are stretched hard, and the body at species with a transparent body becomes muddy because of fungal hyphae. The infected plant louse lives few days only. During the last hours of its life, insect stops feeding: hyphae of fungus clog intestinal tract lumina and sprout into its proboscis. Through the proboscis hyphae of this fungus will penetrate into vessels of a fodder plant, where plant lice live. Inside a plant hyphae keep viability for any time, but later perish inevitably.
However, some fragments of mycelium succeed to reach the next host: they are soaked up by other plant lice of a colony, which also become infected. If plant lice in a colony feed very close to each other, the fungus infects them one by one, directly penetrating with its mycelium into their proboscii.
Sexual breeding of tailed aphidiolysia is extremely seldom, but the fungus breeds successfully, forming sporocarps without fertilisation. From a hindgut of a dying plant louse a sporocarp sprouts – it is a reduced apothecium, peaked threadlike structure up to 3 mm long, at which top ascs with spores are formed. When spores ripen, the top of a sporocarp “becomes diluted” and turns to a drop of a viscous sweetish liquid. It involves ants, which lick off this lure, carry spores of the fungus and infect new plant lice.

Coccid tentacled fungus (Coccidiovora tentaculata)
Order: Carnomycetes (Carnomycetes)
Family: Protocarnomycetes (Protocarnomycetidae)

Habitat: tropics of Southern Asia.
Despite lacking complex traps, carnivorous fungi from among protocarnomycetes appear successful invertebrate trappers. Some of them are specialized in feeding on animals that are virtually not capable to get into traps of other carnomycetes. Prey of such fungi includes sedentary insects – coccids (mealybugs and scale insects). Due to their sluggishness up to complete immovability, the fungus is capable to pursue them.
This fungus has very small size – mycelium covers an area measured in centimeters (approximately correspondent to a colony of insects it feeds on). Sporocarp does not exceed one centimeter in height. Pseudocarpophor (trapping sporocarp) closely resembles mycelium in appearance and is not bordered anatomically from it.
Infection of a coccid colony begins from germination of spore of this fungus on sugary excretions of insects which remain on the surface of plants inhabited by them. It is the first substratum for development of mycelium, and fungal hyphae begin to grow in a direction of an insect attached to a plant. The chosen victim has actually no chance to escape: hyphae of a fungus grow faster than this insect can creep being a nymph. Adult coccids of many species completely lose an ability to move; therefore fungus inevitably grows up to them and inserts its hyphae into apertures of spiracles and hindgut. Fungus changes physiology of an insect for any time, forcing it to suck plant sap more actively, but all nutrients are used exclusively to the growth of a fungus. Secretions of fungus force insects to molt once again, getting some nymphal features and growing up, but at this stage the whole body of an insect is already penetrated with mycelium of a fungus, and there are irreversible changes in it, leading later an insect to death. Only nymphs not lost abilities to move can escape from this fungus, but they also frequently perish, if fungal hyphae grow up to them.
At early stages of development coccid tentacled fungus does not form sporocarps. It takes place when the fungus infects enough of insects and gets necessary amount of nutrients. For infection of new individuals fungus forms band-like strings consisting of mycelium which creep on the surface of tree bark, being guided by smell of insects. These strings represent heavily modified pseudocarpophor. In dry air pseudocarpophor can reach the insects attached at the distance of 2-3 cm, but in conditions of humid climate, using cracks in a bark of a plant where a colony of insects is feeding, it can move to 10 sm and farther in searches of insects.
Fungus gradually kills the infected insects and finally devastates their colony. Breeding of this species more often takes place in asexual way; inside a body of an insect sporocarp representing tiny (up to 2 mm in diameter) cleistothecium on a thin stalk is formed. Sporocarp breaks through a body of an insect on its back and grows, waiting while any beetle or wasp dispersing spores of this species will eat it. Spores of coccid tentacled fungus are distributed also on legs of flies and butterflies fed on coccid excretions.

Underground trapping fungus (Glutinomyces viscosissimus)
Order: Carnomycetes (Carnomycetes)
Family: Protocarnomycetes (Protocarnomycetidae)

Habitat: Eurasia, forests and steppes of temperate climatic zone.
In due course of evolution the majority of representatives of Carnomycetes order has adapted to feeding on small prey – insects and spiders, occasionally on worms. But some representatives of carnomycetes are adapted to feeding on larger prey; it is remarkable that such adaptation was developed at protocarnomycetid fungi, the least specialized in the anatomic relation ones. One of their species is underground trapping fungus adapted to feeding on very large prey – digging insects and small rodents.
Mycelium of underground trapping fungus grows in thickness of the top layer of ground. It develops especially actively in immediate proximity from the large cavities in ground – more often right near to burrows of small-sized animals. Possibly, the development of mycelium is stimulated by air circulation in ground.
Having reached a hole of an animal, mycelium changes its pattern of growth and forms pseudocarpophor – hard hyphal carpet on a surface of floor and walls of a burrow. Initially on walls cotton wool-like layer appears, which in several night hours very quickly accrues and turns denser. On it drops of very viscous glue appear – they are intended for keeping of prey. In holes of small diameter fungus expands along the arch of a hole, and from there drops of glue hang down. Such trap may wait for prey during about one week, but more often prey is trapped much sooner. When the animal tries to cross such trap, it is pasted to sticky carpet. Carbonic gas and organic substances emitted by prey stimulate germination of fungal hyphae, which gradually envelop prey. As a rule, small rodent or an insect quickly chokes, when glue clogs its respiratory system or tracheas.
Fungus produces effective antibiotics interfering the rotting of prey. Also they prevent settling of a mould on prey and suppress the development of insect larvae, which may become food competitors of a fungus. The digestion of a cricket-sized insect takes about two day, and the body of a rodent is digested almost completely within one week. Only wool, bones or chitinous armour remain not digested.
Sporocarp of underground trapping fungus develops under the ground near the surface. It has rounded shape and is similar to a truffle. Surface of sporocarp is covered with a thin tunica, under which spore-bearing surface covered with deep flexuose plicae and cristae is hidden. In fact, sporocarp of this fungus represents a deeply modified apothecium secondarily covered with a tunica from above. Sporocarp of underground trapping fungus emits expressed “mushroomy” smell involving beetles that carry its spores. Sporocarps of this species may be eaten frequently by large herbivorous mammals. Spores in many cases pass through a gastroenteric path of an animal, keeping their viability, and later sprout in manure of an animal.

Parasitic xenocarnomyces (Xenocarnomyces parasiticus)
Order: Carnomycetes (Carnomycetes)
Family: Protocarnomycetes (Protocarnomycetidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of Asia, tropical Africa and Zinj Land.
Evolving actively, various species of carnivorous fungi Carnomycetes have developed diverse types of trapping sporocarps (pseudocarpophors) enabling to trap small animals in various ways. The simplest trapping adaptations may be seen in primitive carnivorous fungi protocarnomycetes – these are simply congestions of mycelium holding prey with the help of “cotton wool” of packless mycelium strings. But some representatives of this family have surpassed in simplicity even such simple adaptation – they began simply to embezzle another’s “catch”, having lost even anything similar to pseudocarpophor. Parasitic xenocarnomyces is one representative of this group of “boarders”
This species is tiny and short-lived representative of carnomycetes. It develops on a substratum, existing extremely short time: in digestive cavities of other carnomycetes, and even in leaf “pitchers” of tropical pitcher plants (Nepenthes). Its nutrient medium consists of insects trapped by these fungi and plants. If in the same trap of fungus or plant two insects with spores of two genetically different fungi are got, the fully-functional sporocarp is successfully formed. But this mushroom exists almost at the edge of opportunities of such way of life: the probability of the appearing of spores of parasitic xenocarnomyces in traps of plants or fungi is insignificant, and in traps there may be not enough food for the development of mycelium of two genetically different individuals. Therefore the sporocarp of parasitic xenocarnomyces can frequently develop without fertilisation.
Pseudocarpophor of this species is reduced in great degree and does not differ in anatomy from usual mycelium. The only evidence of its former existence represents small areas of mycelial carpet chaotically located in cotton wool-like mycelium. But external simplification is connected with very deep physiological changes. Fungus or plant, where the present species settles, is actually its food competitor, therefore parasitic xenocarnomyces changes with its seretions an activity of an organism, which catch is embezzled. Peudocarpophor infected with this fungus lives much longer, than usually, and plentifully produces its lure – smell or liquid. But thus the digestive activity of pseudocarpophor is suppressed – it only provides delivery of a substratum for development of this fungus.
True sporocarp of parasitic xenocarnomyces represents tiny apothecium. It has conic shape and smooth surface, and grows on long (up to 10 cm) thin stalk. It sprouts, piercing the pseudocarpophor of the infected fungus, and attracts insects, rocking in air and imitating a smell of carrion.

Belting fungus (Mycocestum glutinosus)
Order: Carnomycetes (Carnomycetes)
Family: Flower fungi (Mycoflosculidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of Southern Asia, Hindustan.
Among the carnivorous fungi evolved in Neocene epoch there are some natural groups differing from each other in a principle of the arrangement of pseudocarpophor – trapping sporocarp. At representatives of flower fungi family pseudocarpophor forms only one trapping cavity equipped with devices complicating the way out from it to trapped insects. Alongside with progressive species in Neocene mycoflora there is a certain number of primitive representatives of family, at which pseudocarpophor has simpler structure.
In tropical forests of Southern Asia one of primitive flower fungi – belting fungus – lives. As against progressive forms, it has pseudocarpophor of primitive structure with smooth edges lacking any adaptations for holding of trapped insects. But the evolution of pseudocarpophor at this fungus has chosen another direction. Its traps are simply very difficult for bypassing: the fungus literally engirds trunks and branches of trees, and the insects not able to fly get into its trap with the great degree of probability.
Pseudocarpophor of belting fungus forms half-ring “eaves” of gristly consistence, growing horizontally on trunks and large branches of trees. Thin trunks appear completely “girdled”: edges of the same pseudocarpophor connect to each other. Trapping cavity looks like a crack stretching along pseudocarpophor growing strictly horizontally. Pseudocarpophor of belting fungus exists for rather long time, up to 3 weeks. Mycelium of this species grows in cracks of tree bark, among lichens and thickets of moss, and also in forks of branches, where the small amount of humus is accumulated.
At early stages of development belting fungus develops as saprophyte in humus and forms small pseudocarpophor where only casual prey can get. In due course of growth the trap of fungus surrounds tree trunk and the inflow of nutrition gradually increases. Rain water is accumulated in trapping cavity, and the slime secreted by the fungus transforms it into the glue. The fungus does not produce any attracting substances: possible prey simply can not avoid a meeting with it. Army ants frequently cross a belt of pseudocarpophors of this fungus, having literally filled them with bodies of ergates and soldier ants. Sometimes belting fungus catches small frogs and lizards casually falling into pseudocarpophor and suffocating in sticky slime.
Pseudocarpophor gradually grows on along the edges. The youngest parts of pseudocarpophor are yellowish-white, and older ones are orange and gradually browning.
The true sporocarps of belting fungus are funneled apothecia on stalks, growing in groups in “epiphytic gardens”. Their size does not exceed 4-5 cm at diameter of about 3 cm.
The related species, tree pocket fungus (Mycocestum semiconicus), can also form a “belt” around of tree trunk. But its pseudocarpophors have half-conical shape and grow only along the edges, always keeping approximately constant proportions. Their contents also represent sticky mass, in which hyphae sprout, absorbing nutrients from prey. This species forms on tree bark groups of 5-20 pseudocarpophors arranged as a chain or in chessboard order and controlling the whole circle of tree trunk. Mycelium of this species grows in cracks of tree bark, forming dense entanglements under rows of pseudocarpophors. Sporocarps of this species look like asymmetric spoon-like apothecia hanging down and rocking from wind blows.

Sticky flower fungus (Mycoflosculus deceptor)
Order: Carnomycetes (Carnomycetes)
Family: Flower fungi (Mycoflosculidae)

Habitat: subtropics and temperate areas of Europe and Northern Africa (Atlas Mountains), forested areas of good humidifying.
In human epoch, the ecological group of carnivorous fungi eating soil organisms of microscopic size was known. These fungi belonged to micromycetes and it was possible to find them out only with the help of a microscope. In Neocene some macromycetes have joined them, having independently passed to feeding on trapped animals. Among ascomycetes the specific group of fungi rather deeply adapted to feeding on small animals appeared – it is a distinct order Carnomycetes, clearly different from other orders.
Carnomycetes are descendants of saprophytic species of fungi, which passed from absorbing of nutrients from insects casually got on them to purposeful attracting and digesting of insects. Mycelium of carnomycetes is capable to form structures of two types – true sporocarps intended for breeding and trapping sporocarps, or pseudocarpophors, lacking the ability to produce spores and turned to trapping devices for their prey. These structures may differ considerably from each other in anatomy.
Flower fungi represent rather primitive group of carnomycetes. Pseudocarpophor of the most primitive representatives digests prey which has got on its surface. Thus digestive activity is shown by its small area, from which nutrient-absorbing hyphae sprout into the caught animal. At more progressive forms prey is digested in the cavity of pseudocarpophor.
One representative of carnomycetes in Europe is sticky flower fungus. Pseudocarpophor of this species imitates successfully a flower due to its appearance, smell and small amount of sweetish liquid. It grows on the ground among fallen leaves and resembles tubular flowers of some plants. This “flower” may be 10-12 cm tall. It has dense fleshy “flowerstalk” extending to narrow-cone tube bent in one side. Edges of this tube grow as lobes similar to petals. On the internal surface of pseudocarpophor, the liquid attracting insects is secreting. Colouring of an external surface of pseudocarpophor is white, internal side of lobes is yellow with spots of white hair in “fauces”. Pseudocarpophor emits a smell resembling wine scent. Pseudocarpophors of sticky flower fungus can grow in groups numbering up to 20 ones: one fungus on each 2-3 square meters.
Insects flied to the smell paste to the surface of pseudocarpophor, initiating the feeding reaction. A tiny insect is digested on the small area of mycelium directly surrounding it. It becomes enveloped with mold-like cover and is gradually exhausted dry. After that strings of mycelium, that had taken part in its digestion, reabsorb, and empty cover of an insect falls on the bottom of pseudocarpophor, or is carried away by wind from the “petal”, leaving only characteristic “scar” on smooth surface. When large insect or other animal (more often snail or spider) is caught, the significant area of mycelium becomes more active. Thus pseudocarpophor loses its shape and “melts”, quickly sprouting its mycelium into the prey. In this case after digestion fast reabsorbtion of pseudocarpophor takes place, and nutrients are distributed in mycelium and feed other pseudocarpophors and true sporocarps.
True sporocarp of sticky flower fungus is absolutely not similar to pseudocarpophor. It is a small (2-3 cm in diameter) brown apothecium with very wavy edges, growing on a short stalk. Sporocarps develop on the distance of about one meter from pseudocarpophors.
This fungus begins its development as a saprophyte on wood litter, but already in first half of summer the first pseudocarpophors develop, and approximately in one month after them true sporocarps appear. “Flowering” of this species at the northern part of range continues up to the first autumn frosts though by the end of summer the activity of growth of pseudocarpophors is appreciably decreased because of reduction of amount of flying insects. In the south of the range this species “blossoms” the year round.

“Arboreal hydra” (Sylvopolypus pendulus)
Order: Carnomycetes (Carnomycetes)
Family: Flower fungi (Mycoflosculidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of the Western Africa along the Atlantic coast.
Carnomycetes, carnivorous fungi, are widely settled in tropics of Old World – from Africa up to islands of Indonesia. Their shapes are rather diverse, and for various species of these fungi a common feature – presence of various adaptations for capture, keeping and digestion of small invertebrates – is characteristic.
Among various epiphytes inhabiting tree crones, the formations hanging down and resembling very big close-ups of fresh-water hydras may be seen. However, as against their animal prototype, they do not move actively, and only rock in the wind. They are not capable to move actively, because these are trapping sporocarps (pseudocarpophors) of a carnivorous fungus named as “arboreal hydra”.
Mycelium of “arboreal hydra” develops in forks of branches, where communities of epiphytic plants form. At early stages of development, the mushroom is saprophyte, but later it forms pseudocarpophors of very characteristic shape, which appearance has determined its name.
Pseudocarpophor of “arboreal hydra” has almost cylindrical shape and grows to the length of 4-10 cm. It has an elastic consistence and grows, hanging down from “epiphytic gardens” of ferns and orchids. On the free end of pseudocarpophor up to ten thin and long (up to 20 cm), slightly wavy outgrowths develop. They rock in air from ripples of the wind, and their surface is covered with sticky viscous secretions. Insects often land on them, stick at once to their surface and turn to prey of “arboreal hydra”. The rests of the digested insects are carried away with a wind.
True sporocarps of “arboreal hydra” grow among stalks and leaves of epiphytic plants. They grow vertically on thin stalks up to 10 cm long and represent apothecia of almost perfect star shape with 5-6 “petals”. Edges of lobes oof apothecium slightly bend outside, therefore “petals” look as if peaked. Colouring of sporocarps is snow-white. They develop in groups of 3-6 ones, and the insects howering around of flowers frequently land on them and distribute spores of “arboreal hydra” to other habitats.
Due to a tropical climate growth of sporocarps and pseudocarpophors of “arboreal hydra” continue all year round.

“Tree barb” (Dendrobarba muscivora)
Order: Carnomycetes (Carnomycetes)
Family: Flower fungi (Mycoflosculidae)

Habitat: subtropics and temperate areas of Europe, deciduous forests.
Evolution of Carnomycetes, carnivorous fungi, goes mainly in a direction of improvement of trapping sporocarp (pseudocarpophor). At representatives of some groups pseudocarpophor is of freakish appearance, others attract insects with a smell, and the third ones limited themselves with minimal, but successfully working devices enabling to keep and to kill casually trapped prey. “Tree barb” fungus living in forests of Europe belongs to representatives of carnomycetes having primitive traps.
Pseudocarpophors of “tree barb” develop on the bottom side of tree branches and hang down in air freely, rocking from wind blowings. The base of pseudocarpophor represents a dense hyphal carpet developing on the surface of bark. At first it develops as a saprophyte feeding on the organic substances accumulating in cracks of tree bark. As its pseudocarpophor develops, from it cord-like strings of mycelium of creamy-white color up to 20-30 cm long begint to grow – at first single ones, and later in bunches of several ones. On well-advanced pseudocarpophor there may be up to fifty such outgrowths of various ages. The surface of these outgrowths is covered with a sticky liquid with the expressed “mushroomy” smell, which keeps the small insects landed on it – mainly flies and beetles.
The caught insect chokes very soon: its presence causes local secretion by mycelium of sticky liquid, which quickly envelops an insect. Through a liquid hyphae sprout, that penetrate into the body of prey and take nutrients from it. The outgrowth of pseudocarpophor catches insects within approximately one week, then quickly degrades and resolves, giving nutrients to mycelium.
True sporocarps of “tree barb” are apothecia of rounded shape and white color, similar to broken bird eggs. They develop among moss thickets and are filled with randomly bound threadlike outgrowths, which surface is covered with ascs containing spores. Spores of this fungus are spreaded by birds and insects.

“Beer pitcher” (Urceolum cerevisium)
Order: Carnomycetes (Carnomycetes)
Family: Flower fungi (Mycoflosculidae)

Habitat: forests in eastern part of North America and at the Pacific coast, separate populations in river valleys of the central part of continent.
Evolution of carfivorous fungi Carnomycetes runs in different directions: it is a young group of fungi at the stage of active speciation. In due course of evolution at carnomycetes some basic types of traps for invertebrates were developed. One of them is a “trapfall” for ground-dwelling insects and molluscs: the cavity which walls prevent the animal trapped in it to get out. “Beer pitcher” fungus living in forests of North America shows such type of a trap.
Pseudocarpophors of this species grow in a layer of wood soil, and they are difficult enough for finding out visually. Pseudocarpophor of this species grows to the size of about 30 cm, and has extended ovoid shape with narrow “neck” slightly rising above a level of ground. Walls of pseudocarpophor have a dense consistency and are covered from outside with “wool” of hyphae gradually passing to mycelium. Inside pseudocarpophor there is a cavity formed as a result of loosening and partial destruction of hyphae forming pseudocarpophor. Internal walls of pseudocarpophor are very smooth, covered with a layer of an oily liquid. “Neck” is elevated a little above the ground level and opens with several irregular-shaped lobes. Inside pseudocarpophor the oily liquid emitting a sour smell resembling smell of stale beer is secreted. The liquid contains a small amount of spirit, which involves insects very much.
Working of a trap at this species is very simple. Rags of “neck” of pseudocarpophor help insects and small snails to make their way to an entrance to internal cavity. Being attracted by smell, victims of this fungus creep inside and slide off via the “neck” downwards. Prey catching at every pseudocarpophor lasts only for one night, but more often it is quite enough for normal growth and development of new pseudocarpophors. In the morning the process of pseudocarpophor dying off begins: lobes wither, and the top part of walls falls in, blocking the way out for the caught prey. At this time the fungus becomes more active: its mycelium sprouts inside and begins the decomposition of prey. The caught animals, as a rule, quickly choke or sink in the lure liquid. Approximately in two day the cavity of pseudocarpophor appears filled with cotton wool-like mycelium, which sprouts in bodies of prey and takes all accessible nutrients from them.
In four days after closing of the trap the process of decomposition pseudocarpophor begins, accompanied by formation of a new trap somewhere in the neighbourhood. Usually there is one such pseudocarpophor to 5-6 square meters of wood litter.
Sporocarps of “beer pitcher” fungus form on the ground surface in the second half of summer. They represent egg-like perithecia of the brownish color, opened by a lateral crack and filled with friable spore-bearing mass. Carpophot exists for about three days and is quickly decomposed.

Rotten mycolilium, “carrion lily” (Mycolilium cadavericum)
Order: Carnomycetes (Carnomycetes)
Family: Flower fungi (Mycoflosculidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of Southern and South-Eastern Asia.
“Stinky corpse lily” is one of numerous names of rafflesia (Rafflesia spp.) – highly specialized parasitic flowering plant of human epoch. In Neocene among fungi the species which also can apply for this name has appeared. It is rotten mycolilium, one representative of the order Carnomycetes, carnivorous ascomycetes. Pseudocarpophor of this fungus has a very specific shape determined the name of this species.
Mycolilium develops large underground pseudocarpophor. In the beginning of the development it has egg-like shape, but in due course of the development its top part quickly grows and penetrates through a layer of ground up to 30 cm thick, appearing at the surface. In the same time inside pseudocarpophor the cavity is formed. The top of pseudocarpophor is divided into lobes (4-6 ones) and looks like a flowerbud of a certain flowering plant. Having completely developed, lobes of pseudocarpophor open in sides, and then a colouring of their internal side becomes visible – it is meaty-red with grey and yellowish spots, imitating meat at initial stages of decomposition. Wide lobes of pseudocarpophor are similar to petals, but their form is a little bit irregular. Imitation of meat is supplemented with a putrefactive smell spreading around this fungus.
Lobes surround an opening to the internal chamber of pseudocarpophor. Walls of pseudocarpophor are very smooth, and insects slide on them down inside pseudocarpophor, where the viscous liquid preventing them to get out accumulates. Into this liquid from the bottom of cavity fungal hyphae sprout, which actually digest prey.
Pseudocarpophor lives for about one week, and during this time it becomes filled with insects and slugs up to half of its depth. During the decomposition of pseudocarpophor burst of activity of enzymes is observed, which literally empty cuticles of insects. Thus the rise of temperature in pseudocarpophor cavity of 3-4 degrees Celsius is observed even in comparison with surrounding ground.
Sporocarps of rotten mycolilium develop in places of contact of genetically different myceliums of this species, as at all ascomycetes. They represent blunt-conical apothecia with convex middle and lines of longitudinal cristae stretched from the middle to edges – the top part of apothecium looks like “turned inside out” cap of Agaricon mushroom. Colouring of sporocarps is coral red; the putrefactive smell involves the flies dispersing spores of this species.

Waxy beauty (Regioflosculus bellissimus)
Order: Carnomycetes (Carnomycetes)
Family: Flower fungi (Mycoflosculidae)

Habitat: Jakarta Coast, Indonesia; tropical forests.
Among carnivorous Carnomycetes fungi representatives of flower fungi family may be considered as some of the most beautiful kinds. Various representatives of this family with varying degrees of success imitate flowers. Some of them are content with only rough imitation of a flower, attracting insects only by smell and general colouring and shape of pseudocarpophor. But other species imitate flowers so successfully, that they manage to deceive even specialized pollinator insects like hymenopterans.
Waxy beauty, or royal flower fungus, stands on one of tops of evolution of family representatives; it is an example of very skillful imitation of a flower. Pseudocarpophor of this species begins its development in ground and in due course of development sprouts and rises above the surface of the ground. In the advanced condition it has tubular shape and reaches 30-40 cm in length. The bottom part of pseudocarpophor is expanded like a bulb and is buried in the ground. In the bottom part of pseudocarpophor cavity the liquid containing enzymes and substances inhibiting rotting and mold development is gathered. At its top, pseudocarpophor tube is bent aside and is slightly extended. Its color in the bottom part is pinkish, and top is snow-white. The entrance of the trapping cavity of pseudocarpophor is a good imitation of a flower. On edges of this tube 6-8 lobes imitating petals grow. They have rounded shape and are covered with wax-like substance; their colouring is white, well visible in twilight of underbrush. When pseudocarpophor begins to sprout on the ground surface, they are covered with the common filmy coverlet, which brokes off to the moment of complete development of “petals”. The entrance to the cavity is surrounded with a double line of flattened outgrowths slightly bent inside and imitating stamens. Similarity to a flower is enchanced with a strongly expressed sweetish smell.
The internal surface of pseudocarpophor at this species is smooth and covered with a layer of slippery wax-like substance. Bee or other insect, having got into the cavity of pseudocarpophor, inevitably slides down and falls into digestive solution at the bottom of pseudocarpophor. Here insects quickly die and their bodies are enveloped with hyphae of fungus, providing it with an additional feeding.
Pseudocarpophors of waxy beauty live for rather long time – about 10 days. On the same mycelium up to five pseudocarpophors of different ages can develop.
Sporocarp of waxy beauty represents apothecium of coral pink color about 5 cm in diameter, growing on a stalk up to 10 cm long. Edges of apothecium are divided to irregular-shaped lobes. Usually sporocarps of waxy beauty develop in groups in the place of died away pseudocarpophor.

False flower fungus (Callanthofungus falsus)
Order: Carnomycetes (Carnomycetes)
Family: Flower fungi (Mycoflosculidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of South-Eastern Asia and Indonesia.
In Neocene in the Earth mycoflora a new group of fungi – carnomycetes – has appeared. They passed to predatory habit of life, actively attracting small animals and killing them for consuming as a food. Some of them form simple sticky traps, others catch passively smaller animals with complex mesh or spongy constructions. All of them share a common feature – a presence of false sporocarp, or pseudocarpophor, which does not form spores and is a trapping device. And due to the nutrients received from caught animals, they develop their own sporocarps with spores.
Among carnomycetes the special group of fungi appeared, which do not catch insects with pseudocarpophor, but use it for their attraction. One of such species is false flower fungus from tropics of South-Eastern Asia. Its prey includes butterflies and bees fell for the trick of the fungus. This fungus begins its life cycle as a saprophyte among mosses in thickets of epiphytic plants, forming pseudocarpophors – one or the several ones, depending on the amount of accessible nutrients. Its pseudocarpophor is similar to a small flower of bright colouring – in fact, it is deep and narrow apothecium, which edges are bent outside and look like lobes of various sizes. This pseudocarpophor has white color with meaty-red spots in “fauces” and is covered with waxy substance reflecting ultra-violet rays of sunlight and involving insects. It is filled with drops of sweetish liquid containing particles of fungus mycelium and having pleasant sweetish smell with a putrefactive shade. This is a fatal entertainment for insects: nectar-eating insect soaks up through its proboscis fragments of mycelium with secretions of fungus, and the fungus begins its life as a parasite. At first, while the fertilization had not taken place yet, haploid mycelium of fungus expands slowly and spares its host. If the insect feeds repeatedly on genetically unrelated representative of the same species of fungus, a particle of its mycelium gets into an organism of an insect, and the fertilisation takes place; as a result of it, the development of diploid sporocarp begins.
Having infected an insect, the developing fungus changes its behaviour and forces it to eat nectar intensively, accumulating a plenty of food in a gut. Thus an abdomen of infected insect is strongly inflated and is almost ready to burst – the insect hardly flies. The nectar sucked by it is a stock of nutrients for building of sporocarp of a fungus. The beginning of the sporocarp development results in intensive growth of mycelium in tissues of an insect, and the infected insect perishes in some days, and from its body sporocarp of a fungus appears. At false flower fungus sporocarp represents a group of small apothecia (about 5 mm in diameter) with the raised edges, growinh on thin elastic stalks up to 25 mm long. They are grayish-white, the internal part of apothecium is filled with viscous yellowish mass with spores. A liquid secreted by apothecia attracts insects with its smell, and they carry spores to suitable substrata, where the development of pseudocarpophor begins.

“Pixie’s hive” (Spongiomyces meliodorus)
Order: Carnomycetes (Carnomycetes)
Family: Spongy predatory mushrooms (Carnomycospongidae)

Habitat: forested areas of Ethiopia, the north and the central part of Zinj Land, Hindustan and South-Eastern Asia.
Tropics of Old World and Meganesia are parts of the range of separate group of carnomycetes – spongy predatory mushrooms. Representatives of this family have very characteristic shape – at them pseudocarpophor (false sporocarp) has spongy structure and is penetrated with a plenty of tunnels. They are quite similar to latticed stinkhorn (Clathrus) – basidial mushroom known in human epoch, but differ in richer spongy structure of pseudocarpophor with the apertures of smaller size leading to chaotically formed system of internal cavities merged with each other. The pleasant smell (frequently fruit- or flower-like one) attracts insects which creep inside pseudocarpophor and appear pasted by legs to mycelium. Pseudocarpophors of spongy predatory mushrooms have bright colouring – from white and citreous up to red and pink shade. This structure exists not for long – its development takes about two days. One more day pseudocarpophor catches insects, and then its fast decomposition takes place, followed by simultaneous absorbing of nutrients.
Actual sporocarp of spongy predatory mushrooms represents apothecium, frequently fancifully ramified or divided, which grows on thick elastic stalk.
Mushroom named “pixie’s hive” attracts insects with a characteristic honey smell with slightly putrefactive shade, which they feel some tens meters far from a mushroom. Pseudocarpophor of this mushroom develops on leaf litter or among the rests of deeply decomposed tree trunks. Its diameter is up to 25-30 sm, and the shape resembles somewhat like a head of cauliflower – the bottom part is blunt conical, stuck in a substratum not very deep, and top side is convex and lumpy. The most part of apertures opens on the top side of pseudocarpophor. Colouring of the top side is light pink; the basis hidden in substratum is white.
Most frequently prey of this mushroom includes bees and wasps, and also other insects attracted by honey smells. Enzymes of this mushroom are capable to decompose the pollen grains getting into pseudocarpophor with prey insects.
After the decomposition of pseudocarpophors at the edges of mycelium area sporocarps appear. These are small apothecia on short stalks with deeply divided and wavy edges. Colouring of an internal part of sporocarp is coral pink; external surface near the stalk is brown. Sporocarps emit spicy aroma attracting spore-dispersing insects.

Termite sponge fungus (Lomechusomyces termitorum)
Order: Carnomycetes (Carnomycetes)
Family: Spongy predatory mushrooms (Carnomycospongidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of Africa.
In Neocene on the Earth the group of predatory mushrooms of macroscopical size – carnomycetes – had evolved. A mainstream of their evolution was the development of adaptations for catching of small invertebrates. But some representatives of carnomycetes have developed the unusual life strategy enabling them to survive in conditions of a competition. One of such varieties is termite spongy fungus. This species leads an unusual habit of life – it settles on termitaries of forest-dwelling kinds of termites. Sometimes this fungus is an only external sign of presence of termite colony.
Pseudocarpophors of termite spongy fungus grow on the ground surface among leaf litter, marking the location of a colony. If the nest of termites has an elevated dome, pseudocarpophors of this fungus frequently grow inside it, breaking a firm environment of the nest as they grow. But termites do not hasten to get rid of this fungus: they cultivate underground mycelium and eat a part of it. However, termites relieve a fungus of pests, eating away mycelium of other fungi and killing insects capable to damage it. When pseudocarpophors break cover of nest, termite ergates carefully close up cracks, leaving a fungus untouched.
Pseudocarpophor of this species has almost spherical shape is half buried in substratum; its diameter is up to 10 cm, usually smaller. It is penetrated with a labyrinth of chaotically directed tunnels leading inside and covered with a layer of sticky slime. Young pseudocarpophors are snow-white, changing color to yellowish as they grow older. Duration of existence of pseudocarpophor is about five days. Due to fertilization with termite dung this fungus forms pseudocarpophors in regular way, and in vicinities of a colony of termites there are always one or two working traps.
Termite spongy fungus feeds on insects, but termites almost do not fall its prey, because they spend the most part of time under the ground and do not contact with pseudocarpophors. But the presence of a fungus in their colonies gives a certain benefit to them: secretions of pseudocarpophors of this fungus are very attractive to ants. In addition they have an intoxicating effect on them, like secretions of Lomechusa beetle known in human epoch. Fungus traps ants more often, becoming “a secret weapon” of termites. The smell its pseudocarpophors emit literally disorganize an attack of army ants to termitary. Having felt a smell of fungus, ants stop attack and gather around pseudocarpophors. They lose care, try to get into tunnels of pseudocarpophors and perish inside them. Intoxicated with fungal secretions, they allow termites killing them without any resistance. Termites are immune to intoxicating effect of fungus, and they only casually can get in a trap of fungus.
Sporocarp of this species is an apothecium similar to a wine-glass up to 15 cm tall, of white color. Its stalk is thin and elastic, and cap is almost spherical, opened from above with a small aperture. Sporocarps of this fungus grow in groups and sometimes “branch” from the basis.

“Truffle of death” (Spongiotuber termitivorum)
Order: Carnomycetes (Carnomycetes)
Family: Spongy predatory mushrooms (Carnomycospongidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of Africa.
In due course of evolution some species of predatory fungi carnomycetes have developed an unusual way of life and became rather highly specialized hunters for certain invertebrates. In tropical forests of Africa there are fungi entered symbiotic relations with termites. However, literally next to them “truffle of death” lives – it is a fungus of other sort, which spreads its traps in underground constructions of termites and eats them. Pseudocarpophors (trapping sporocarps) of this fungus resemble a truffle, but have spongy structure and the irregular shape. Their surface has brown color, and they have small size (up to 2-3 cm), but are rather numerous: at the “rich” site there may be up to ten pseudocarpophors per one square meter of wood litter.
Pseudocarpophor of “truffle of death” grows under ground at the depth from 5 up to 15 cm and never appears on the surface. It is formed in places where under the ground galleries of termites are made, and frequently directly in the middle of gallery. Small soft-bodied termites may be easily trapped in narrow tunnels penetrating pseudocarpophor, and stick to drops of an odorous liquid. Fungus digests them almost entirely – after decomposition of pseudocarpophor in the ground only small clusters of firm head capsules of insects remain.
Sporocarps of “truffle of death” have cup-like shape with meandering edges, frequently “merged” in clusters of 4-5 ones. Their colouring is grey or brownish, and they almost do not rise from under a layer of fallen leaves.
In forests of the Atlantic coast of Africa and in southwest Europe there is a close species – musky worm-eater (Spongiotuber moschatus), a carnivorous fungus specialized in feeding on earthworms. It is similar to “truffle of death” in shape, but differs in expressed musky aroma, which attracts to its pseudocarpophors worms it feeds on. Its sporocarps are also cuplike, having dissected edges and black color. They are only slightly elevated above a ground level on thick stalks.

Funeral fungus (Myrmecotuber funebris)
Order: Carnomycetes (Carnomycetes)
Family: Spongy predatory mushrooms (Carnomycospongidae)

Habitat: Europe, deciduous and mixed forests.
During the evolution predatory fungi carnomycetes have developed a great range of strategies of survival. The basic direction of their evolution was the perfection of trapping mechanism formed of pseudocarpophor (trapping sporocarp). However, some species of carnomycetes have stepped away from predatoriness, forming the symbiosis with various types of animals.
In tropical forests of Africa underground representative of carnomycetes lives, which is named as “truffle of death” (Spongiotuber termitivorum). It is a specialized predatory fungus placing its traps on tracks of termites and eating these insects. In forests of Europe a related species of fungus leading a similar way of life is found, but it uses a different strategy of interaction with insects – it is funeral fungus.
Termites are not numerous in Europe, and the funeral fungus develops in ant hills, frequently using the underground tunnels dug out by ants. Pseudocarpophor of this species is of rounded shape, up to 4 cm in diameter, and it has spongy structure characteristic for representatives of family. It lacks pigmentation and has greyish-white color. Pseudocarpophor develops in thickness of the ground at the depth of about 10 cm and frequently has irregular shape, especially in places, where under the ground there are stones and roots of trees.
As against other carnivorous mushrooms, funeral fungus does not catch at once ants creeping into its pseudocarpophor. It emits a specific smell, which influences behaviour of insects. Under the influence of this smell ants drag into the holes of this fungus insects, on which fungus feeds. More often, these are bodies of their dead relatives – hence the name of fungus. But if there is not enough dead ants, fungus gets food of other kind - insects found by ants in wood and dragged into the nest.
Pseudocarpophors of this species exist for rather long time: they can function for about two weeks, while ants will fill to capacity all cavities in them. Around of one ant hill up to five pseudocarpophors of this species can exist.
Sporocarp of funeral fungus develops some distance far from an ant hill. It is an apothecium of small height and brown color, which edges are stretched on the ground. Due to such shape of sporocarp, on its surface ants and other insects dispersing its spores easily creep.

“Devil's meat” (Carnospongia cadaveromima)
Order: Carnomycetes (Carnomycetes)
Family: Spongy predatory mushrooms (Carnomycospongidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of Africa.
One of the most popular objects for imitation by plant flowers is carrion. In different time representatives of various families of plants developed during evolution features of similarity of their flowers with pieces of carrion: “meaty” colouring of flowers, a putrefactive smell and even heating of flowers imitating processes of decomposition. In Neocene fungi have joined these simulators. Scavenger insects are usual virtually everywhere and are easily fooled with the roughest imitation of decomposed meat.
On ground and rotten wood in tropical forests of the central and western Africa a carnomycete species lives, which uses for catching insects their interest to carrion – a strange fungus named as “devil’s meat”. Pseudocarpophor (trapping sporocarp) of this species imitates decomposed meat very precisely: its surface has meaty-red color with separate spots of yellowish-white color, and smell very precisely simulates the meat beginning to decompose. Pseudocarpophor frequently has irregular shape, which emphasizes an accuracy of imitation. Its size usually is no more than 10 cm.
Structure of pseudocarpophor is spongy, characteristic for representatives of family. The liquid with a smell of rotten meat is secreting inside pseudocarpophor, forcing insects to creep deeper into the pseudocarpophor in searches of a source of smell. Walls of pseudocarpophor are covered with sticky drops and have friable structure – due to these features insects appear unable to free and perish. New insects even creep into the trap on bodies of already trapped ones. Mycelium gradually penetrates into bodies of the caught insects, and the absorbing of nutrients begins.
Pseudocarpophor keeps its shape and elasticity during several days. Process of decomposition begins from its surface – the smell faints, and the apertures leading deep into the pseudocarpophor collapse. An intensive resorbing of mycelium takes place, accompanied by dissolution of soft tissues of trapped insects. After pseudocarpophor dying off, on a substratum a thin film of dried hyphae remains, covering empty shells of insects preyed by fungus.
Sporocarp of “devil’s meat” fungus itself represents a cluster up to 5 cm in diameter, consisting of partly merged apothecia on the common thick stalk. Its colouring is meaty-red and is accompanied by emitting of unpleasant smell attracting some beetles which disperse spores of this species.

Spring-coiled fungus (Carnoelatera sphinga)
Order: Flesh-eating fungi (Carnomycetes)
Family: Sponge carnivorous fungi (Carnomycospongidae)

Habitat: forests of central Europe.
In the human era carnivorous fungi eating microscopic invertebrates were known. In Neocene among ascomycetes the new promising group appeared – carnomycetes, predatory macromycetes. Their trapping bodies (pseudosporocarps, false fruiting bodies) have various shapes depending on their methods of catching of their prey – usually small invertebrates. Unlike plants, the body of the fungus is represented by false tissue – plectenchyma representing a plexus of hyphae. Due to a lack of vessel elements the types of traps used by plants are inaccessible to these fungi, so they develop other types of traps to keep their prey.
One group of these fungi forms pseudosporocarps shaped like spirals which are able to curl during the swelling of cells, forming their hyphae. This species is the spring-coiled fungus, living among mosses and lichens on trees in the forests of Central Europe. This fungus looks very peculiar: from moss thickets thin spiraling pseudosporocarps of white color up to 20-30 cm hang downward. In a group there are up to 40-50 pseudosporocarps forming a “beard”, which occupies a part of the branch about 20 cm long. Young and weak individuals of the fungus form groups of 4-5 pseudosporocarps.
The surface of the pseudosporocarps oozes drops of sweetish sticky liquid that attracts small insect into the coils. When an insect is among the coils of a spiral, the pseudosporocarp responds to mechanical and chemical stimulation: at the stimulated site the turgor of its cells increases, and the spiral curls tightly, preventing its prey to escape. One pseudosporocarp can hold up to 3 small insects. The prey is rapidly dissolved, and then the destroying of the pseudosporocarp takes place – it turns into a long slimy thread and dies off.
The fruiting body of the spring-coiled fungus is an apothecium of white color with deeply dissected edges, about 2 cm in diameter. It rises above the thicket of moss on a long stalk and sways in the wind, attracting flies that carry the spores of this species.

Translated by FanboyPhilosopher.

Hanging reticular fungus (Reticulomyces vorax)
Order: Carnomycetes (Carnomycetes)
Family: Spongy predatory mushrooms (Carnomycospongidae)

Habitat: forests of Southern Europe, foothills of the Alpes.
The evolutionary success of carnivorous macromycetes of Carnomycetes order was provided by two components: a variety of types of traps and a variety of conditions in which they are applied. On one separately taken site of habitats it is possible to find carnomycetes having several types of pseudocarpophors, living in different conditions. Some of them catch prey secretively, others, on the contrary, attract it by means of color, taste or a smell.
In shady sites of the evergreen forests growing on southern slopes of ridges of the Alpes, a very impressively looking carnomycete species lives – hanging reticular fungus. Its pseudocarpophor hangs down from the bottom part of thick branch covered with thickets of moss and epiphytic ferns. Pseudocarpophor looks like a single-layered meshwork of pouchlike form up to 20 cm long at width of about 2 cm, with narrow vertical apertures in the walls opening into the internal cavity. Color of pseudocarpophor is usually of light shades – white, greyish, yellowish or pinkish; due to it pseudocarpophors of the fungus are better visible in forest twilight. Insects and snails squeeze through openings inside of mesh pseudocarpophor, being attracted with a smell and sugary secretions on the internal side of its walls. In reply to a touch cells secret mix of water and slime, which turns to gelatinous mass in air. Thus turgor of cells decreases, and pseudocarpophor “deflates”, preventing animals appeared inside to escape and simultaneously pasting them with slime. After that the mycelium sprouts into the cavity of pseudocarpophor, envelops an immobilized prey, and fungus digests it. Pseudocarpophors are capable to catch prey during several days, collapsing and opening again up to three times.
Sporocarps of this mushroom, as against pseudocarpophors, form closer to a tree trunk. These are narrow goblet-like apothecia of bright yellow color hanging down on thin stalks and filled with jelly-like mass containing spores. Spores of this fungus species are dispersed by forest rodents licking contents of apothecia. Spores sprout in their feces and mycelium develops in wet conditions of moss thickets.
Sphaeric reticular fungus (Reticulomyces sphaericus) differs in a way of life from the above-described species: it lives on the ground in wet places among cushions of moss and forms pseudocarpophors of another shape – small and spherical, up to 4-5 cm in diameter, and of meshy structure. Pseudocarpophors of this species are bad visible from outside, and only trap insects, molluscs and young frogs living in the moss and casually getting into them. Sporocarps represent small “turned inside out” apothecia of bright red color on long elastic stalks. Red color belongs to slime with spores, which has sweetish taste and attracts ground-dwelling birds and small rodents which disperse spores of this fungus.

Fungi - basidiomycetes

Befuddling mushroom of owls (Strigomyces vinum-murinus)
Order: Agaricales (Agaricales)
Family: Agaricaceae (Agaricaceae)

Habitat: Eurasia, North America; forests of temperate and subtropical climate.
During evolution, various species of mushrooms repeatedly entered symbiotic relations with various animals. When the relations like these last for millions years, interdependence of two parts of symbiosis becomes so great, that no one members of such symbiosis can exist alone. At the same time in nature always there are examples of less deep symbiotic relations, and also of relations which only have started to develop and have not resulted yet in dependence of even one member from another one. The example of such developing symbiosis is shown by befuddling mushroom of owls widespread in northern hemisphere. This mushrooms species is connected in rather unusual way to owls – typical forest-dwelling birds.
Young sporocarp of befuddling mushroom of owls has almost spherical cap of laquer-pink color and a stipe enveloped with white veil. In due course of growth cap grows flatter and its color also changes to ochre-red; only the middle of cap remains pink. Diameter of cap of mature mushroom is about 5 cm, it’s hape is wide conical. At mature sporocarp elastic stipe about 10 cm tall with a filmy ring in the top part and bunches of hairs distributed along its length develops. In the basis of a stipe there are rests of a veil enveloped it in the beginning of growth.
Hymenophor is lamellar, at first white, then of orange color. On gills of mature sporocarp, sweetish liquid having pleasant smell is secreted. Because of the shape of cap it flows to its edges and forms drops there.
Befuddling mushroom of owls is saprophyte and keratinophile. It frequently grows under trees where there are nests of large birds used from year to year, and also in caves, where flocks of birds nest (for example, in Balkan). This species grows on the organic remains containing some per cent of keratin. But especially frequently it grows on owl rangles – hence one of names of this species. In this case this mushroom provides to itself a constant inflow of suitable substratum due to special features of its physiology.
The liquid secreted by mature sporocarps attracts small mammals with its taste. It has a narcotic effect and causes feeling of euphoria. Being under the influence of this mushroom, little mammals lose care, run noisily in forest and as a result frequently fall prey of owls. Mushrooms frequently grow under a favourite resting place of an owl, where its rangles appear in regular way. Thus, mushroom shows initial stages of symbiosis with owls – its growth on owl rangles is much more often phenomenon, rather than simply casual concurrence. In such places it grows in plenty – some tens sporocarps at various stages of development at once. In casual places (for example, on the rests of carrion) befuddling mushroom of owls grows in little numbers, but can also finish its life cycle normally. Food competitors of this species are lepidopterans of tineid moth (or fungus moth) family (Tineidae), but mushroom kills them with its secretions. This mushroom species winters on organic remains.

“Forest lantern” (Mycolanterna extralucens)
Order: Gilled mushrooms (Agaricales)
Family: Pale-spore mushrooms (Tricholomataceae)

Habitat: rainforests of northern part of Meganesia.

Picture by Biolog

Among factors of natural selection for any kind of live organisms there is the mode of its interaction with environmental species of live organisms. This factor becomes especially important, and even determining, when the connection, taking place between two species, becomes stronger, and dependence on it from the part of one or both species increases. Dependence on other species becomes determining at parasites for which the host species becomes an inhabitancy.
Coevolution results in evolving of species adapted to coexistence with one or several species of live organisms. One example of this phenomenon is shown by mushroom living in rainforests of Meganesia. It has ability to glow very brightly, and it is directly connected with mode of its relations with some species of animals living near to it. It is small pileate basidium mushroom, which is a symbiote of lamplighter bird and lantern ant. The bright luminescence had determined the name of mushroom – “forest lantern”. At night under rainforest canopy congestions of these mushrooms are well appreciable from apart.
“Forest lantern” grows on rotten wood. It plentifully expands on heaps of pieces of rotten wood gathered by lamplighter bird specially for this purpose, and without care from the part of this bird it lives on moldering tree trunks. But “wild” populations of mushroom grow less intensively, than ones the lamplighter bird looks after. It is explaining by following reason: on heaps of lamplighter bird mushroom has another ally – lantern ant. It also settles in heaps of pieces of rotten wood gathered by lamplighter bird, and eats not only insects, but also mycelium of various species of mushrooms. Its saliva contains substances which stimulate growth of mycelium of “forest lantern”. In places of ant stings the mycelium of “forest lantern” forms original inflows which are eaten willingly by lantern ants. Activity of ants selectively exterminates the species of mushrooms competing with “forest lantern” for nutrients. Without care the mycelium of “forest lantern” quickly reaches physiological maturity, but exists not for long, and within two years completely degrades and is superseded by other species of wood-attacking mushrooms. On heaps of lamplighter bird at care of lantern ant this mushroom exists much longer, and forms a plenty of fruit bodies. These mushrooms are not poisonous for terrestrial vertebrates, and they are eaten occasionally by large forest birds and marsupial mammals.
Fruit bodies of “forest lantern” form congestions up to 20 cm in diameter, weighting about 400 grams. The luminescence is by-product of life processes of mushroom, but in process of coevolution just this property had determined success in existence of this species of mushrooms. Lamplighter birds till the centuries searched in forest of pileuses of most brightly glowing specimens of “forest lantern”, and brought them to their constructions. As a result of such selection from the part of birds “forest lantern” glows much brighter, than species from close genera. The fruit body of “forest lantern” has conic pileus on long stem. Hymenium of this mushroom is lamellar, and edges of lamellas glow especially bright. The mushroom emits greenish-white light which shade varies at different populations. Light of single mushroom seems not too bright, but “forest lantern” forms the close joints numbering up to 2 – 3 tens of fruit bodies. Light emitting by thickets of “forest lantern”, would allow human eye to notice a small insect at the distance of about 40 cm from joint of mushrooms at moonless night.
“Forest lantern” grows quickly – the completely developed fruit body forms within three days and is kept about one week. Dying off fruit bodies cease glowing, and lamplighter bird, as a rule, carries them off from its “mushroom bed”.

Octopus fungus, “dead man’s hand” (Necrochiromyces palpatus)
Order: Phallales (Phallales)
Family: Stinkhorn mushrooms (Phallaceae)

Habitat: semidesertic areas of Mediterranean lowland.

Picture by Mex

Fungi live in all areas of the Earth, from tropical forests up to deserts and edges of glaciers. Their evolution passes very quickly, and newly formed habitats at once appear populated with various species of fungi. One of the most rigorous places on the Earth is Mediterranean lowland representing hollow, which bottom is covered with thick layer of salts remained after drying of Mediterranean Sea. Here only hardiest species of live organisms can exist. On salt-covered plain mountains, once former islands of Mediterranean rise and edges of the lowland represent semidesert. Here life is considerably more diverse. At the edges of Mediterranean lowland one unusual species of gasteromycete fungi lives. For the shape it got the name “octopus mushroom” or “dead man’s hand”.
The fruiting body of this mushroom represents irregular-shaped formation with several finger-like outgrowths. The fruiting body is formed in places where the moisture is kept for longer time – usually in channels of drying up rivers or at the coast of temporary reservoirs. In the beginning of development the fruiting body has egg-like shape – it is covered with a leathery environment of brownish color. In due course of growth the fruiting body swells and breaks a crust of dried up ground. On the ground surface the environment is broken off to several rags, releasing the actual fruiting body. At the first hours of the development it is similar to the fist, but in due course of growth finger-shaped shoots start to get smoothed out and straighten. They have pinkish-white color and friable internal part. On the surface of fruiting body slime is plentifully secreting. Basidia cover an external surface of fruiting body and the generated spores appear in layer of slime. Growth of fruiting body begins in the evening and proceeds during all night. In second half of night the height of fruiting body of octopus mushroom reaches about 20 cm at thickness of about 8 – 9 cm. Warmth is the determining factor for development of this species – at the northern border of an area, in the Alpes, fruiting bodies of octopus mushroom are much smaller despite of abundance of organic substances in the ground.
Many mushrooms use services of the most widespread and undemanding insects – flies and beetles – for spore carrying. Their fruiting bodies smell very unpleasantly, involving spore distributors. Slime of octopus mushroom also has strong smell – spicy with putrefactive nuance. Such smell involves beetles which are the basic distributors of spores of this mushroom. The mycelium of octopus mushroom develops in places where in the ground there is at least a small amount of moisture and organic substances. More often fruiting bodies of this mushroom appear at the end of winter and in spring. In summer, when the ground dries up, they can be found only in places where there are shadow and moisture at once – near to large plants, in places protected from the heat of sun.
In the morning the fruiting body quickly loses elasticity and wilts. Finger-shaped shoots fade and lay in various sides around the basis of fruiting body. Slime stiffens as a thin pellicle through which evaporation of water proceeds. The fruiting body quickly shrinks and gets viscous consistence. However, spores of octopus mushroom keep viability even in this case. One more distributor of spores of this species is whistlehorn (Stridocornis etrurius) – desert artiodactyl similar to gazelles. These mammals willingly search for fruiting bodies of octopus mushroom and chew them. The substances contained in fruiting bodies of this mushroom, have slight intoxicating effect on them – adult animals do not lose coordination of movements and speed of run, but behave less cautiously and in absence of danger frequently play like calves. Manure of whistlehorns serves as a good substratum for development of mycelium of octopus mushroom.

Bottle fungus (Lagenomyces prolongicervix)
Order: Earthstars (Geastrales)
Family: Earthstars (Geastraceae)

Habitat: Europe, warm-temperate areas of Asia, Far East.

Picture by Biolog

For mushrooms great variety of shapes of sporocarps, which frequently get rather specific and freakish shape, is typical. It is usually characteristic for tropical mushrooms, which frequently compete to flowers in fancifulness. But in temperate latitudes there are also rather interesting fungi species. One of such forms is bottle fungus widespread in Eurasia.
This species belongs to the number of gasteromycetes, and its spores form in a cavity of sporocarp. But the fungus has developed a way of spore dispersing, using services of insects for this purpose. Bottle fungus is a saprophyte and grows on well humidified ground in forests and among bushes. Sporocarp of bottle fungus develops under ground; at early stages of development it has characteristic egg-like shape and develops on the depth of up to 20 cm. Sporocarp is covered with a double tegument: exo- and endoperidium. As sporocarp matures, endoperidium gets characteristic bottle-like shape: lateral parts begin to grow and endoperidium stretches hard an external tegument. At this time in sporocarp cavity is formed. As against fungi of Geaster (earthstar) genus of human epoch, sporocarp does not appear on the surface entirely, exoperidium does not open and does not get the characteristic star-like shape. Further in endoperidium growth of the top part forming “bottleneck” begins. “Bottleneck” breaks through exoperidium at top, makes the way through ground and fallen leaves and appears on the ground surface, towering to 12-15 cm above it.
At top of “bottleneck” sporocarp is opened via vertical crack, giving insects an access into the internal cavity of fungus. Edges of crack bend outside, exposing meaty-red inner side with black spots, which attracts insects by partial imitating of meat. Internal walls of sporocarp are velvety from a friable layer of myceliums with spores. During the time of spore-bearing sporocarp emits pleasant flowery-wine smell. Insects fly to this smell, creep along the “bottleneck” inside the sporocarp and eat a part of mycelia strings. Flying away from a fungus, they bear spores on their bodies and carry them in vicinities. In shape of sporocarp of bottle fungus and its way of attraction of insects there is a case of convergence with plants of aroid family, at which covering leaf at an inflorescence (spathe) forms a trap for insects of the similar shape.
After spore-bearing sporocarp of bottle fungus slowly dies off. In dry summer and an autumn the rests of sporocarp do not decompose, but dry up into parchment-like mass and keep till the next spring.

Antidote bracket fungus (Fomitopsis detoxicator)
Order: Polyporales (Polyporales)
Family: Fomitopsidaceae (Fomitopsidaceae)

Habitat: Japan Islands, parasite of “death tree”.

Picture by Biolog

Japan Islands harbor one of the largest poisonous plants of Neocene epoch – so-called “death tree”, an arboraceous plant of Anacardiaceae family. Its toxins are so poisonous, that it is unsafe even simply to stand in thickets of this tree. Few animals and plants are capable to endure the neighbourhood of this species. Nevertheless, a poisonous tree has symbiotes, and some species of animals feed on its foliage or seeds, accumulating toxins of tree in their bodies for protection against enemies. But the protection of “death tree” itself is not absolute, and it has its own enemies.
On trunks of “death tree” large tinder fungi species settles – antidote bracket fungus. It is one of few parasites on this poisonous tree. The secret of its survival is consists in the presence of special enzymes – the powerful weapon in chemical war plants lead against each other. This fungus is able to decompose poisonous components of plant sap to harmless substances, and begins its expansion on the “neutralized” areas.
The significant part of a body of fungus is hidden under bark and in the top layer of wood of “death tree” as mycelium – richly expanding and clogging tracheae of tree. From outside on tree bark sporocarps of this fungus are visible – perennial (existing up to 4-5 years) ones, slightly lignificating in the centre, but soft and spongy on edges. Diameter of mature sporocarp reaches 40 cm. The top side is colored rusty-brown passing to edges to dark yellow. Spongy spore-bearing layer on the bottom side of sporocarp is white. The top side of sporocarp is flat or slightly convex in the middle, edges are slightly wavy.
Sporocarps develop on host tree trunk in small groups, young sporocarps grow above mature ones. Usually sporocarps of antidote bracket fungus develop at height of 3-4 meters above the ground.
This fungus removes a part of poison with the drops of liquid formed along the edge of sporocarp. The liquid contains very small amount of poison of “death tree”, and fungus adds to it the substances attracting insects. Due to such trick on sporocarps of fungus beetles and flies gather, who get drunk, having tasted a “cocktail” produced by fungus. They lose ability to fly for some time and simply creep on the bottom side of fungus, gathering on their legs and the bottom side of body spores, which they carry then across the forest. Spores sprout on the damaged bark of “death tree”, and mycelium at first develops on drops of sap of tree, penetrating them with its strings. In due course of development mycelium penetrates deeper into the wood.
Places on trunk, where mycelium of antidote bracket fungus develops, differ in smaller contents of poison – it is a consequence of activity of mycelium of this fungus. It enables other fungi and animals to settle on “death tree” and to use it as a source of food. Antidote bracket fungus destroys wood only a little, because it is a parasite and in its development depends on well-being of host tree. Tree infected by this fungus in great degree gradually slows its growth rate and is exposed to an attack of wood-boring insects and also of wood-destructing fungi, which cause oappearing of dying off sites of wood, and further the death of a whole tree.

The idea about existence of this fungus was proposed by Anton, the forum member.

Abscess fungus, tree sore (Xyloulcus corrosivus)
Order: Polyporales (Polyporales)
Family: Fomitopsidaceae (Fomitopsidaceae)

Habitat: forests of Europe (Western Europe, foothills of the Alpes, Fourseas coasts) and Northern Africa (Atlas Mountains).
In Neocene in all natural communities fungi still occupy niches of decomposers and parasites of animals and plants. In due course of evolution they began to decompose effectively wood of both dead and live trees. One of the parasitic fungi playing an important role in wood decomposition is an original representative of tinder fungi which is named as tree sore, abscess fungus for original appearance of its sporocarps. This fungus descends from sulphur polypore (Laetiporus sulphureus) known in human epoch.
Like its ancestor, abscess fungus is a parasite of deciduous trees; it never lives on coniferous trees. This fungus is easy to recognize due to its characteristic appearance. Its sporocarps appear on various places of trunks of infected trees – from roots up to inner part of crone. Their presence is easy to find out: from such sites the bark peels, and fungus forms on the damaged wood dense mycelia “carpet” of color from yellowish-white up to citreous and bright rusty. Under the layer of mycelium an active process of destruction of wood takes place, in which not only fungus takes part, but also numerous insect larvae. Fungus decomposes also their dung containing a significant amount of non-digested cellulose. The damaged site of wood is literally corroding – from year to year, it becomes deeper and more extensive. Tree trunk loses durability and falls, especially if it was infected near to roots. This fungus settles at the sites of damaged wood not covered with bark, and further spreads to the whole tree trunk.
Sporocarps of this fungus are modified deeply in comparison with ancestral species. Formation of a sporocarp begins in thickness of “carpet” of mycelium, where a spherical formation appears. In due course of growth in it an internal cavity appears, and on its surface the formation of hymenophor begins. The wall of sporocarp directed down grows thinner and turns to a thin membrane. When growing, sporocarp gets the shape similar to orange wedge. To the moment of complete development of sporocarp, the membrane on the side directed down is broken off and opens spongy hymenophor of white color. The top side of sporocarp is smooth or slightly knobby, along the edge of sporocarp rags of protective membrane hang down.
Spores of this species are frequently carried by insects. Formation of sporocarps takes place more often in places of pupation of beetles, which at larval stage were fed under the cover of mycelium. As a rule, in sporocarp a burrow may be found, which is gnawed through by the beetle after the termination of its metamorphosis.
In warm areas abscess fungus grows the year round. At the north of its range, in conditions of cool winter, peel with sporocarps sheds off every year and grows again in spring of the next year from mycelium wintered in thickness of wood.
Sporocarps and mycelia “carpet” of abscess fungus are edible for many kinds of animals. They frequently become a food for rodents and others ground-dwelling mammal, and also for various invertebrates, especially for snails and slugs. This species grows rather fast; therefore it easily restores damage put by animals.

Thick petal fungus (Crassipetalops sanator)
Order: Polyporales (Polyporales)
Family: Fomitopsidaceae (Fomitopsidaceae)

Habitat: Eurasia, old woods of various types in the temperate climatic zone.

Picture by Biolog

Tinder fungi have rather successfully endured human epoch, settling in artificial tree plantings and invading wooden constructions. Only few highly specialized forms of these fungi have become extinct after destruction of their habitats: these were mainly the kinds infecting old trees of slowly growing species inhabited mainly old-grown forests. Survived species of tinder fungi have quickly restored their number and range after the ending of human epoch, and among them the species occupied ecological niches of extinct forms appeared alongside with kinds leading a new way of life.
One unusual representative of tinder fungi is thick petal fungus. This species occupies extensive areas of woods of Eurasia in zone of temperate climate with obviously expressed seasonal changes. It settles mainly on deciduous trees, preferring old trees with wood heavily affected by insects.
Mycelium of this species destroys wood inactively and grows mainly in tunnels bored by insects, clogging them with friable cotton wool-like congestions of mycelium secreting sticky sweetish liquid. When a grub touches them, it usually sticks to mycelium, which quickly envelops this grub and penetrates into its spiracles and digestive path, killing it. Mycelium quickly absorbs nutrients from grub body, accumulates them, and then uses for formation of sporocarp. Because of this feature this species of fungi most successfully grows on trees heavily affected by insects, and can reduce appreciably the number of wood pests.
Thick petal fungus develops rather slowly, and only at the end of summer it forms on tree trunks smann annual sporocarps growing one by one. Sporocarp of this fungus has unusual and easily recognizeable shape – it is very flattened, of gristly consistence and semicircular outlines with deeply dissected edge, which forms lobes of approximately equal size, for what this fungus is named. Sporocarp does not lignify and keeps elasticity till early winter, and then dies off. The top side of sporocarp is smooth, beige-white in color, gradually passing to brown at edges. Hymenophor is spongy, of white color, plentifully producing yellow spores.
Spores are sticky, dispersing by means of wood-boring insects. They stick to armours of beetles during their feeding on fungus, keeping viability after passing via intestines of insect. By means of insects they get in wood of the necessary quality, where the new mycelium develops.

Yi qiu mushroom (Ganoderma formicarium)
Order: Polyporales (Polyporales)
Family: Ganodermataceae (Ganodermataceae)

Habitat: tropical forests of Philippine Archipelago.
During a history of the Earth mushrooms many times entered symbiosis with various kinds of animals, mainly with insects. This union, frequently existing during millions years, resulted in development of close interrelation between their species. Fungi cultivated by leaf-cutting ants are those, for example. In forests of Philippines in Neocene epoch one species of tinder fungi has entered symbiotic relations with one local ants species.
This species, yi qiu mushroom, provides symbiote ants with habitation, receiving in exchange protection from mycophagous insects and an additional feeding due to waste formed in insect colonies. This fungus has an appearance typical for tinder fungi and infects the weakened and old trees, preferring fast-growing species with soft wood. Because of it, it is possible to meet this fungus more often in places where the restoration of the damaged forest cover has entered a finishing phase, and the trees forming a secondary forest are gradually superseded by slowly growing species with hard wood.
The body of this species is present as mycelium stretching under a bark of infected tree on its trunk and large branches. Sporocarps form mainly in crone of tree; top side of it is flat, and edges are slightly raised. The bottom side of sporocarp is inflated, hymenophor is spongy. In fact, sporocarp has almost entirely a spongy structure suitable for life of symbiotic ants, and only from above it is covered with dense leathery tegument. Top side of sporocarp is colored rusty-brown shade with darker concentric lines marking the periods of temporary slowing of growth; bottom side has ash-grey color. In good conditions diameter of sporocarp reaches 50 cm; it accrues from edges every year, existing up to 6-8 years. Sporocarps form on tree trunk in groups: younger ones grow from below, under old ones, forming “racemes” up to 2-3 meters long. Usually all sporocarps are inhabited by ants forming one or several closely related families.
Old sporocarp gradually destroys wood in an adjoining part of tree trunk, forming the cavities lined with mycelium. In such a way fungus gets feeding from organic remains gathered by ants: insects drag waste from nest into these cavities. Fungus has passed to dispersing of its spores with the help of symbiotes. Spore-bearing areas are formed on the surface of hymenophor, but only in restricted places. The part of spores is taken outside during the ventilation of nest by ants, but much more often spores are carried by winged breeding individuals during a nuptial flight. Usually winged individuals of symbiote ants infect a tree when feed on sap flowing out from damaged trunk. Also the tree appears infected, when impregnated ant female founds a colony in a crack under tree bark. When the first sporocarp appears, a colony of insects begins more intensive expanding. Attracting ants, mushroom secrets a small amount of sweetish sap in thickness of sporocarp.

The idea about existence of the present species of fungi was proposed by Morgot, the forum member.

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