Environment & Nature News - Humungous fungus: world's largest organism? - 10/04/2003: "Humungous fungus: world's largest organism?
Thursday, 10 April 2003
Mushrooms of the Armillaria fungus
Armillaria fungus mushrooms: could this be the largest single organism on Earth (Pic: USDA)
The discovery of the world's largest fungus - up to 8,500 years old and carperting nearly 10 square kilometres of forest floor - has raised questions about what constitutes an individual organism.
A study of a tree-killing fungus in rugged northeast Oregon, USA, found that a single individual covered an area equivalent to about 1,600 football fields, according to a report in the current issue of the Canadian Journal of Forest Research.
'The fact that an organism like this has been growing in the forest for thousands of years really expands our view of the forest ecosystem and how it works,' said Dr Catherine Parks, a pathologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture who led the study. 'From a broad scientific view, it challenges what we think of as an individual organism.'
The fungus is the most outstanding known individual of the Armillaria ostoyae species, which grows in high-latitude northern hemisphere forests and causes large production losses due to root disease. It lives in the soil and spreads mainly along tree roots by shoestring-like threads called"