Fungal fluid mechanics

Applied and Computational Mathematics Seminar
Monday, February 27, 2012 - 14:05
1 hour (actually 50 minutes)
Skiles 006
UCLA Mathematics Dept.
Although fungi are the most diverse eukaryotic organisms, we have only a very fragmentary understanding of their success in so many niches or of the processes by which new species emerge and disperse. I will discuss how we are using math modeling and perspectives from physics and fluid mechanics to understand fungal life histories and evolution: #1. A growing filamentous fungi may harbor a diverse population of nuclei. Increasing evidence shows that this internal genetic flexibility is a motor for diversification and virulence, and helps the fungus to utilize nutritionally complex substrates like plant cell walls. I'll show that hydrodynamic mixing of nuclei enables fungi to manage their internal genetic richness. #2. The forcibly launched spores of ascomycete fungi must eject through a boundary layer of nearly still air in order to reach dispersive air flows. Individually ejected microscopic spores are almost immediately brought to rest by fluid drag. However, by coordinating the ejection of thousands or hundreds of thousands of spores fungi, such as the devastating plant pathogen Sclerotinia sclerotiorum are able to create a flow of air that carries spores across the boundary layer and around any intervening obstacles. Moreover the physical organization of the jet compels the diverse genotypes that may be present within the fungus to cooperate to disperse all spores maximally.