The worlds biggest fungus, discovered in Oregons Blue Mountains in 2001, is challenging traditional notions of what constitutes an individual. The underground fungus--estimated to be between 2000 and 8500 years old--is also deepening our understanding of the ecosystem, with possible implications for the management of Canadian forests, according to a paper by the discoverers (B.A. Ferguson, T.A. Dreisbach, C.G. Parks, G.M. Filip, and C.L. Schmitt) published March 17 on the Web site of the Canadian Journal of Forest Research (http://cjfr.nrc.ca).
The clone of Armillaria ostoyae--the tree-killing fungus that causes Armillaria root disease--covers an area of 9.65 square kilometres, about the size of 6000 hockey rinks or 1600 football fields.
"Its one organism that began as a microscopic spore and then grew vegetatively, like a plant," says Dr. Catherine Parks, a research plant pathologist with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service and co-ordinator of the research team. "From a broad scientific view, it challenges what we think of as an individual organism."
Dr. Catherine Parks | EurekAlert!
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