Ecology and biodiversity usually focus on species, but the real builders of ecosystems are the individuals within them. Yet, when we shift our gaze to fungi, things get tricky. Unlike the clear-cut counting of plants and animals, fungi throw us a curveball. When we stumble upon their fruit bodies, calling them individuals is tricky.
So, how do we solve this riddle? Enter the laboratory, the scientist's playground. It's here that we attempt to unlock the secrets of fungal individuals, but it's far from a walk in the park. Crafting the perfect blend of ingredients – the media – and adjusting the environment just right – the growth conditions – is like brewing a mysterious potion. A tiny slip, and the magic disappears. If we're lucky, after a painstaking 40 to 60 days, we glimpse the fruits of our labor: the mycelium and its reproducing organs, all under our controlled spell.
Now, let's meet our star: Cyclocybe aegerita, the Pioppino mushroom. We watch as its mycelium stretches and sprawls in darkness for 30 days at a cozy 25°C. Then, we play the temperature switcheroo, dropping it to 20°C, and orchestrating a dance of light and darkness for 15 days. And voilà, the fruit bodies start their enchanting performance. The photo captures their mature stage, with the mycelium wearing a shade of brown, a sign that sexual reproductive spores have been discharged.
All this effort, just to capture a photo of one individual—a testament to the intricate world of fungal ecology and the lengths we go to understand these elusive organisms.