Patek Collaborates on Mechanics of Fungal Spores


Ballistospore launching upon drop coalescence.

Prof. Sheila Patek is a co-author on a recently published paper exploring the mechanics of fungal spores (“Asymmetric drop coalescence launches fungal ballistospores with directionality.” F. Liu et al., Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 2017. DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2017.0083).  The study was led by professor of mechanical engineering Chuan-Hua Chen and also included 2001 Botany Ph.D. graduate Anne Pringle, now teaching at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.  The paper explored the mystery of how fungal spores launch themselves from the parent body in order to disperse as far as possible.  “The spores are launched with a massive amount of force in a specific direction, almost like a cannon,” said Prof. Chen.  The exact mechanics have long been a mystery, but ingenious experiments with an ink-jet printer (yes, really!) allowed the team to focus on what actually happens.  Film at the link!

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Fungal Spores Harness Physics to Launch Themselves