Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fungus Among Us

Science writer Natalie Angier has an article in the New York Times this week exploring the role of fungi, as she puts it, From Killer to Dinner Companion. "Fungi are everywhere," she writes, "on every continent and in every sea, floating in the air, lacing through the soil, resting on your skin, colonizing mucosal cavities within, and festively decorating that long-neglected peach." She touches on chestnut blight, the white-nose syndrome that's killing bats, and athlete's foot, but also on the role of fungi in supporting plants (possibly as many as 90 percent of plant species depend on mycorrhizal fungi to obtain nutrients from the soil) and humans (in the form of yeast for making bread and alcohol). It's a quick and enjoyable read.