Saturday, October 6, 2012

Enigmatic Auricularia (Tainga ng Daga)

Dr Abe V Rotor

Juvenile thalli of Auricularia resemble ear lobes of rat, soft to touch and semi-translucent. Vein like impressions and fine hairs add to virtual reality.

Then the thalli dry up in summer into lifeless mass. Who would suspect life to return to this aestivating mushroom? But it does. Resurrection is when the biomass rehydrates, returning to its original mass and form - indeed a mystery in nature. Surprising too, Auricularia dissiminates countless spores in the process, like seeds of higher plants. Which leads us to the question, " Where is the boundary of life and death?"

That's not all. Auricularia is a sleeping giant. And it really is - reminiscent of the fiction character Gulliver visiting two extreme worlds: the land of the pygmies (Lilliput) and land of the giants (Brobdingnag). When conditions are favorable, and given time to grow fully, the thalli coalesce and inarch into one contiguous biomass. While scientists say speciation has led to the formation of new strains, among them is shown above, the more we are mystified by how a simple organism - a mycophyte - can evolve a hundred times or more from the normal size of its kin without any significant morphological and anatomical change. Then in the next season, for whatever reason, like Alice in Wonderland, it returns to normal growth.

Such is the enigma of the life of Auricularia, for which reason, like all its kin - molds (Phycomycetes), yeasts (Ascomycetes), mushrooms (Basidiomycetes), and those that have dual identities (Fungi Imperfecti) - are all lumped up into a single Kingdom - Mycophyta or the Fungi, which is separate from the rest of the living world. It is because they live at the border of the living and the dead; they are the bridge of the organic and the inorganic world. They transform the remains of the living things into materials that support the next life, one generation to the next generation, ad infinitum. 
Above all, fairy tales are not complete without them. Imagine a dwarf sitting on top of a mushroom, free from the cares and concerns of our world. They make children and adults alike mystified
 and yet happy .~ 

Fairy tales the mushroom is recounted in delight
    of children and adults, a happy world by the hearth,
   generations before and ahead, unending, evolving,
               for without and its kin, cease all life forms on earth.  - AVR

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