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Saprotrophic woodland fungi forage for mineral nutrients and woody resources by extension of a mycelial network across the forest floor. Different species explore at different rates and establish networks with qualitatively differing architecture. However, detailed understanding of fungal foraging behaviour has been hampered by the absence of tools to quantify resource allocation and growth accurately and non-invasively. To solve this problem, we have used photon-counting scintillation imaging (PCSI) to map and quantify nutrient allocation and localised growth simultaneously in heterogeneous resource environments. We show that colonies spontaneously shift to an asymmetric growth pattern, even in the absence of added resources, often with a distinct transition between the two growth phases. However, the extent of polarisation was much more pronounced and focussed in the presence of an additional cellulose resource. In this case, there was highly localised growth, often at the expense of growth elsewhere in the colony, and marked accumulation of (14)C-AIB in the sector of the colony with the added resource. The magnitude of the response was greatest when resource was added around the time of the endogenous developmental transition. The focussed response required a metabolisable resource, as only limited changes were seen with glass fibre discs used to mimic the osmotic and thigmotropic stimuli upon resource addition. Overall the behaviour is consistent with an adaptive foraging strategy, both to exploit new resources and also to redirect subsequent foraging effort to this region, presumably with an expectation that the probability of finding additional resources is increased.

Original publication




Journal article


Fungal Genet Biol

Publication Date





1111 - 1121


Biological Transport, Carbon Radioisotopes, Gamma Cameras, Hyphae, Models, Biological, Models, Statistical, Phanerochaete