Spore mats are an intriguing phenomena. For certain fungi, they may be quite visible as dense mats of fungi in the ground that produce spores. Spores are, of course, the seeds of a fungus and those that are found on spore mats are often mitospores, whereas those that form from a fruiting body, such as a truffle or a mushroom on your dinner plate, are often meiospores.
Ectomycorrhizal fungi (such as truffles) are thought to reproduce primarily, or even exclusively, through spores produced from their fruiting bodies. However, recently it has been discovered that several truffle species actually form spore mats, producing mitospores. Spore mats produced by truffle species are often formed below the soil surface and as such, are hard to locate or observe which is why they are largely unnoticed or even acknowledged in truffle cultivation.
Moving forward, we now know that some truffle species produce these spore mats as well as actual truffles and so, this leads to the obvious question of why? One possible reason is that the mat spores are actually acting as spermatia (a male fungi reproductive body), which means they would be extremely important in the sexual reproduction of truffles. If this is the case, we at the American Truffle Company will be observing and nurturing the development of such mats within truffle cultivation practices with great interest.
At a recent conference, we discussed the possible role of spore mats in a truffle’s life-cycle and why they may be of paramount importance in cultivation. We have a long way to go before truffles will be fully understood, but slowly pieces of the puzzle are being presented and, those that fit, will illuminate a whole new area. We’ll keep you posted!
|Examples of spore mats|
Dr. Paul Thomas
American Truffle Company