Southern Marsh Orchids

Southern Marsh Orchids

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Shooting Fungi

On Sunday I collected a Scarlet /Ruby Elfcup for  identification and on examination of the tomentum and spores it tuned out to be Scarlet Elfcup (Sarcoscypha austriaca), which is what I expected.

While I was examining the "squash" of a tiny part of the cup, to check the tomentum, I came across one of the Asci which had been separated from the flesh of the fungus. I had a few spores inside it and looked interesting enough to encourage me to photograph it, which, lacking a photomicrography adaptor, I did by hand holding my digital compact up to the eyepiece of my microscope, resulting in the unremarkable photo below.

The ascus, with contents prior to discharge, with distal end downwards.
Incidentally an ascopsore with buds, typical of S. austriaca can be seen
bottom right.

I decided to measure it, so swapped the eyepiece for my measuring eyepiece and lined the graticule up along the length of the ascus. Having duly measured it, I looked away for a second or two to reach for my camera to take another photo, but when I lined it up with the eyepiece for the photo, I realised that something had changed. I took a couple of shots and then had a look through the eyepieces to see what had happened. The ascus had moved and was now along the top of the field of view, the top of it torn open and empty, while at the bottom of the field, there were a couple of ascospores lying about, looking shifty.

The empty ascus is now at the top. the distal end facing right. The torn nature of
 it can't really be seen in this image. The ascus is 90 microns long.

In the five seconds or so between me looking away to get my camera and lining it up with the eyepiece, the ascus had performed its purpose, which is to shoot its cargo of ascospores into the world outside, probably encouraged by the heat from the microscope's illumination.

Miffed at missing the event and in the hope of witnessing another ascus shooting its spores, I cut a couple of sections and squashed them under the cover slip. This resulted in lots of asci being visible, but I never did see any of them shoot.

The spore bearing inner surface of the cup, showing the spore filled asci embedded
in the mass of red fibres.
The Ascospores show up well when stained; in this case, with Methyl Green.

No comments:

Post a Comment