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How Do Fungi Regulate Their Body Temperature?

Date:2023-7-19 14:14:09   

Temperature controls the growth, reproduction and ecological distribution of all life forms. The temperature of an organism depends on the balance between the generation, gain and dissipation of thermal energy, and is also influenced by its overall environment. In theory, if an organism gains more thermal energy than it dissipates, it gets warmer. Conversely, if more thermal energy is lost, the organism may reach a cooler temperature than its surroundings. When the organism and the environment have the same temperature, there is no heat flow and the organism is in thermal equilibrium. Organisms can be classified according to their primary source of heat (endothermic/variable temperature) and their ability to maintain body temperature relative to the environment (constant temperature/variable temperature). Constant-temperature organisms, such as birds and mammals, can maintain a relatively constant internal temperature. However, most life forms are variable temperature, and their main source of body heat is the external environment.


Figure 1 Wild mushrooms are cooler than the surrounding air

Fungi play a central role in balancing the planet's ecology by breaking down decaying biomass to grow and providing nutrients to new growth. The fungal kingdom includes macroscopic species (e.g. mushrooms, mycorrhizal fungi) as well as microscopic unicellular species (e.g. molds, yeasts). Fungal organisms can be a source of food, medicines, and various biological materials, but some can also be pathogenic to plants and animals, causing serious public health and agricultural problems. Given the ecological and economic importance of fungi, understanding their temperature and thermoregulation is crucial, becoming even more critical in the face of global warming.

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Figure 2 Yeast and mold colonies are cooler than the surrounding agar

In contrast to plants and animals, the thermobiology of fungal, protist, archaeal, and bacterial communities is largely unknown. Due to their small size, these microbes are often thought to be ectothermic, not having enough thermal energy to maintain a temperature difference from their surroundings. Researchers have recently confirmed through infrared thermography that not only macrofungus mushrooms can maintain low temperatures, fungi have also been observed in mold and yeast colonies that can maintain cooler temperatures than their surroundings. Like mushrooms, unicellular fungal colonies achieve low temperatures through evaporative cooling, suggesting that this cooling process is an evolutionary older thermoregulatory mechanism. The data from this study suggest that fungal hypothermia is a ubiquitous feature of the fungal kingdom. Since fungi play an important role in maintaining ecosystems and supporting terrestrial life, these results provide a theoretical basis for the development of ecological economy and the response to global warming.