EM transference by vole (was Re: FUNGI AND EARLY TERRESTRIAL LIFE)

truffler1635 at my-deja.com truffler1635 at my-deja.com
Tue Oct 24 03:16:29 EST 2000

In article <39F4970F.EC224B94 at ihug.co.nz>,
  Treeman <nojunkemailbengaia at ihug.co.nz> wrote:
> Mycorrhizal fungi act as nutrient gatherers and transport water to the
> host plants.
> Sort of like the pixies of the natural world really!
True. But they do much more as well.

According to Dr. James Trappe, professor emeritus at Oregon State
University, Tuber gibbosum (Oregon White truffle) appears to act as a
"fungal prophylactic" against infection by Fomes annosum, aka Douglas fir
root rot. Many hypogeous mycorrhizal fungi also leach potassium,
phosphorus and calcium from rock by exuding oxyalic acid, when
reabsorbing the acid and minerals.

These hypogeous fungi also provide the bulk of the food supply to the
California Red-backed vole and Red tree voles, which then disperse fungal
spores in their feces. Chris Maser has called California Red-backed voles
"the most common animal life west of the crest of the Cascade Mountains"
and estimates their population to be from 50 to 3000 animals per acre.
Each must eat their weight (or more) in truffles each day to prevent
starvation. How is that known?

Chris send Dr. Trappe a live California Red-backed vole. Upon receiving
the live vole at about 5 pm on Friday, Dr. Trappe weighed the vole and
put an equal amount of fresh truffles in the cage before leaving for the
night. At 8am the next morning, Trappe found the vole dead, the truffles
gone. An autopsy of the vole showed it had died of starvation!

According to Chris Maser's The Redefined Forest, California Red-backed
voles produce about 300 fecal pellets per day. This is what he spent much
of his time doing while an employee of the Forest Service: couinting
small-mammal pellets, or as he calls them "pooperaroonies". Each fecal
pellet contains over 100,000 hypogeous fungal spores. Dr. Trappe has
estimated it takes up to 1,000 spores from one fungal species to
inoculate a new tree root. Thus, everytime this timid animal defecates
during its life, it innoculates mycorrhizal fungi. In a year, a single
vole produces sufficient innoculant to establish mycorrhizal fungi on
9,000 tree seedlings: more than are typically found in an acre of forest
land...or enough for 60 acres at 500/trees per acre that most tree
farmers grow on their property.

BTW, the meadow mouse, aka Short-tailed vole, also consumes truffles and
mycorrhizal fungi which typically are found in meadows with forbes. Deer
mice also frequently eat truffles, but contain fewer spores per

Daniel B. Wheeler

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