Slug poop can produce mushroom colonies

Slug poop can produce mushroom colonies, say scientists in Japan. Scientists have found that a Mantleslug (Meghimatium fruhstorferi) can play an important role is dispersing the spores (seeds) of fungi – especially species of mushrooms.

Scientists at Kanazawa University in Japan examined the faeces of the Mantleslug and its DNA. Researcher Nobuko Tuno said she initially did not think the role of the slug was effective because it is not very mobile. However, when she saw the results of a different study on mushroom-eating fly larvae, which reported increased fungal colonisation in soil, Nobuko Tuno took a closer examination of slugs.

The analysis revealed that the mushroom-eating slugs carry spores from wood-rotting fungi, and the spores were also present in their faeces. The slugs, when they poop, disperse the mushroom spores into the forests where they live.

The scientists tracked the faeces of 5 slugs throughout a forest at night. They marked the position of the slugs every 30 minutes. They found that the slugs, which are molluscs, tend to move through materials, such as leaf litter and wood debris, that are well-suited for establishing new fungal colonies, reported New Scientist magazine on 22 March 2022. It is a slow, but effective, process of spreading mushroom spores.

In fact, some of the fungal spores started germinating while they were still inside the digestive tract of the slug. This might be due to the moisture in the slugs’ stomachs. 

The researchers then wondered what would happen to the mushroom colonies if the Mantleslugs were not present in the forest.

Location of photograph: Paris, France

Photographer: Martina Nicolls 


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