MINI-ME!! More FUNGAL morpho-deformities: Mushrooms get confused.

Mini-me, which way is up and positive geotropism.

You either like Austin Powers or you don’t, no middle ground here. Even if you don’t like the juvenile comedy of Gold Member or The Spy Who Shagged Me there’s always memorable characters in these classics . Fat Bastard comes to mind but my favorite is Dr. Evil and his one-eighth sized clone Mini-Me. Dr.Evil and Mini-Me are inseparable. The mushroom deformity here on this blog page is a fungal Dr Evil/Mini-Me aberration. A mini mushroom growing out of a normal mushroom. It’s actually even more than that: It’s an upside down mushroom cap growing out of the top of a normal mushroom cap with a complete mini-mushroom growing out of THAT!

DNA is a set of chemical instructions. A section of DNA that has the instructions for making a protein is a gene.Some genes also have instructions that direct how and when the parts of an organism develops. Mistakes happen. Instructions get lost, mis-translated turned off and then turned on again. The results can be…welll..unpredictable. 

This mushroom is called Lactarius vinaceorufescens and though it’s not edible it’s a very cool mushroom in it’s own right. The flesh of this mushroom is filled with a milky liquid that mycologists call latex. The latex of mushrooms is not the same as the latex of rubber trees although the color and consistency is similar. But they’re two different substances. If you scratch the gills or break the stem of this mushroom it weeps a white milky latex and then…here’s the cool thing…the milk turns YELLOW. In a matter of seconds, once it’s exposed to the air, the white latex turns bright chrome yellow. Other members of Lactarius have latex that is differently colored to start with OR changes from milky white to some other color. People call the Lactarius mushrooms Milkies or Milkcaps.

So what’s going on with THIS particular mushroom? Mini-Me here has gotten scrambled instructions from his genes.and a mistake was made and then, later in development an attempt to correct the mistake. Normal growth of a mushroom follows what biologists call geotropism. All that means is as the mushroom grows the gills beneath the cap point downward toward the earth’s center of gravity.

Image.

It works like an umbrella. The shape of a mushroom is umbrella like to keep the rain off the gills because the gills have the reproductive cells, the spores, and so mushroom design protects the spore forming gills from rain. When everything is working right the spores fall off the gills and float away on tiny air currents to form new mushroom colonies away from the parent. This mushroom was doing fine and then for some reason got a bad set of instructions.A gene malfunction. A screw-up. The mushroom formed an upside down cap on top of the regular cap with the gills facing the wrong way! Not good! Then somebody in the gene department caught the mistake, made a correction and sent a new set of instructions out to form another mini mushroom on top of the up-side-down cap on the middle of the first normal cap. See it? And so Mini-Me the mushroom sits atop Dr Evil and the mushroom world is back in order. Sort of….

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