Researchers in the field of bioballistics how plants, fungi and animals accelerate seeds, spores or even parts of their body to high speed have found an amazing variety of techniques to overcome friction with the air, the main limitation for small spores and seeds.
"Understanding how Sclerotinia is discharging its spores and getting them onto the plants will eventually lead us to new ways of looking at plant architecture," said co-author Helene Dillard, a plant pathologist who heads Cornell University's Cooperative Extension and is associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "When plant breeders are developing new varieties of crops such as beans, cabbage or sunflowers they can keep in mind how Sclerotinia gets the spores to reach their targets, which is usually the flowers."
Scientists have recognized for more than 100 years that many spore-producing fungi the ascomycetes release their spores in plumes that carry them long distances. More than 50 years ago, scientists noted that these spore plumes create a wind of their own, but the physics of the plumes was not understood, Roper said. In addition, little work has been done on how seeds or spores cooperate to improve dispersal to new environments.
With training in the mathematics and physics of fluid flow, Roper and Seminara decided to investigate in collaboration with Pringle, a Harvard mycologist.
For the current PNAS paper, the researchers used high-speed video to clock the speed of spores ejected by Sclerotinia, finding that they are expelled at a speed of about 8.4 meters per second (19 miles per hour). However, because the spores are so small 10 microns long air drag brings them to a stop in a mer
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University of California -- Berkeley