Life and Death in a Petersham Cemetery: Dispersal and Demography Among the Fungi
Fungi are uniquely organized biological systems: apparently immortal, growing with modular and indeterminate body architectures, and able to use a range of seemingly unusual genetic mechanisms, including parasexuality, to generate genetic diversity. I use fungi as tools to test core principles of evolution and ecology. The dispersal of fungi is often perceived as passive; spores appear to drift with wind or water. In this talk I will describe experiments to challenge that perception; in fact, fungi actively manipulate local environments to reach new habitats. Since 2005, I have collected demographic data from a population of lichens growing on tombstones of a New England Cemetery, and I will also describe how I am using these data to test whether filamentous fungi have escaped the evolution of senescence.