An Interconnected Network
An article recently published in the April 2010 issue of Scientific American examines the relationships between truffles, their tree hosts, and animals (including us!). I found that this serves as yet another fascinating topic that connects the three St. Paul branch libraries and highlights the importance of each.
In brief, trees obtain vital nutrients and water from the networks of mycorrhiza, which are produced by truffles, between their roots. The fungus in turn receives sugars and nutrients that the tree obtains through photosynthesis. In order to propagate, however, the truffles must release their spores. Thus, a problem arises: how do truffles release their spores when they are underground? Over millions of years, truffles have developed aromatic compounds or colorations that attract certain species of animals or insects. Animals and insects of all sizes and on many continents sniff out their beloved truffles and either lay eggs near the truffle as a food source for their young or eat them. The flesh of the truffle is digested, but the spores pass through the animal safely and germinate when environmental conditions are right.
The Hidden Life of Truffles by James M. Trappe and Andrew W. Claridge
Scientific American, Vol 302, Issue 4, Apr 2010.
U of MN students and faculty: Find it here through one of the library's vendors!