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Betty J. Jeffers

Project Topic / Abstract:

“Comparative Peridium and Spore Morphology in Bird’s Nest Fungi (Nidulariaceae) and its Relation to Spore Dispersal Mechanisms”

Nidulariaceae, or bird’s nest fungi, contain their basidiospores in numerous lenticular-shaped peridioles. The peridioles are in turn contained within a larger peridium, or fruiting body, that ranges in shape among the five genera of bird’s nest fungi. Although peridium structure plays an influential role in the mechanisms of spore dispersal, little is known about the morphological basis for this. In the present study, two species of Nidulariaceae were examined using combined light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy. Cyathus stercoreus has a rigid, vase-like peridium, whereas that of Nidularia pulvinata is more fragile and globose. This investigation focused on the ultrastructural differences between the two species regarding the morphology of mature peridia and peridioles, the initiation of peridiole development, and the presence or absence of both modified clamp connections and a funicular cord, which functions in spore dispersal. This study also documented morphological correlations between these structural features and the different methods of spore dispersal in the two species. For example, the vase-like peridium of C. stercoreus functions as a splash-cup, ejecting the peridioles and their attached funicular cords. These cords act as “grapling hooks” during dispersal. By contrast, the globose peridium of N. pulvinata does not facilitate the ejection of peridioles, which lack funicular cords. Here, the relatively thin-walled peridium simply disintegrates and passively releases the enclosed peridioles. In addition, this is the first study to examine a special case of twinning in N. pulvinata.

Presentations:

1997

  • National Conference on Undergraduate Research (Austin, TX)
  • Truman Undergraduate Research Symposium (Kirksville, MO)