Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Biomechanics of invasive growth by Armillaria rhizomorphs.

Abstract

Rhizomorphs of wood-decay basidiomycetes are root-like structures produced by the coordinated growth of thousands of hyphae. Very little is known about their development nor the way that they penetrate soils and rotting wood. In this study, we applied techniques used in previous studies on hyphae to explore the mechanics of the invasive growth process in Armillaria gallica. Growth rate measurements were made in media with different gel strengths. The osmolyte composition of rhizomorph sap was determined spectroscopically and the forces exerted by growing tips were measured using a force transducer. Cultured rhizomorphs extended at much faster rates than unbundled hyphae (3.5 mm d-1 versus 1.5 mm d-1) and their growth accelerated in response to increased medium gel strength (to 7.4 mm d-1). Measurements of rhizomorph osmolality provided a turgor pressure estimate of 760 kPa (7.5 atm.), and spectroscopic analysis showed that this pressure was generated by the accumulation of erythritol, mannitol, and KCl. Forces exerted by growing tips ranged from 1 to 6 mN, corresponding to pressures of 40-300 kPa (0.4-3.0 atm.). Pressures exerted by extending rhizomorphs are comparable to those produced by individual vegetative hyphae. This suggests that the mechanical behavior of hyphae is similar whether they grow as unbundled cells or aggregate to form macroscopic rhizomorphs.