Pale grebe spread around the world through 'cloning'

Mycologists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have discovered an unusual way of reproduction in the Californian version.

pale toadstool.The study showed that these deadly poisonous mushrooms can produce spores using only one "parent" chromosome set. This mechanism does not require "search" for a sexual partner and seems to explain the rapid spread of the fungus to new territories.

Like other related mushrooms, pale grebeusually reproduces bisexually: spindle-shaped underground structures of two separate individuals fuse, and then above-ground fungi are formed containing the DNA of both individuals. Studies in Europe have confirmed that fungi have two genetic sets, one from each parent organism.

American mycologists examined samples of fungi,collected in California. Pale grebes first appeared in this region only at the beginning of the 20th century, but have since spread to large areas. The findings suggest that instead of looking for a fusion partner, the Californian version of the fungus fertilizes itself.

Researchers do not yet understand howpale grebes bypass the genetic restriction that provides for sexual reproduction, but most of the collected samples are "clones" - organisms with an identical set of genes inherited from only one parent.

Pale grebes originate from Europe and, asscientists believe were brought to North America at the end of the 19th century by tree lovers. Fungal spores hid in tree roots. After being transferred to a new continent, these fungi began to spread actively and in some regions they are more common than on the European continent. An unusual breeding strategy, for which one fungus is enough, explains the reason for the rapid expansion of the pale grebe.

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Cover image: Justin Pierce (JPierce) at Mushroom Observer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons