Category Archives: Field studies

Giant fungus discovered in China


Giant fungus discovered in China

The most massive fruiting body of any fungus yet documented has been discovered growing on the underside of a tree in China.

The fruiting body, which is equivalent to the mushrooms produced by other fungi species, is up to 10m long, 80cm wide and weighs half a tonne.

That shatters the record held previously by a fungus growing in Kew Gardens in the UK.

The new giant fungus is thought to be at least 20 years old.

The first example of the new giant fungus was recorded by scientists in 2008 in Fujian Province, China, by Professor Yu-Cheng Dai of the Herbarium of biology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shenyang and his assistant Dr Cui.

“But the type collection was not huge,” Prof Dai told BBC Nature.

However, “we found [the] giant one in Hainan Province in 2010.”

The researchers were in the field studying wood-decaying fungi when they happened upon the specimen, which they describe in the journal Fungal Biology.

“We were not specifically looking for this fungus; we did not know the fungus can grow so huge,” he said.

“We were surprised when we found it, and we did not recognise it in the forest because it is too large.”

The fungus, F. ellipsoidea, is what mycologists call a perennial polypore – otherise known as a bracket fungus.

Being a perennial, it can live for a number of years, which may have enabled it to grow to such large size.

By colonising the underside of the large fallen tree, the fungus also had a huge amount of dead and decaying wood to feed on, helping to fuel its growth.

Fruiting bodies, such as mushrooms and toadstools, are the sexual stages of a many higher types of fungi, producing seeds or spores that produce further generations.

The giant fruiting body of F. ellipsoidea forms a long, brown shape up to 10.85m long, 82-88cm wide, and 4.6-5.5cm thick.

Tests on the density of the fruiting body suggest the whole thing weighs 400-500kg; it is also estimated to hold some 450 million spores.

“A small piece of the fruiting body is almost like my size,” said Prof Dai.

The previous record holder was a specimen of Rigidoporus ulmarius, a polypore with a pileate fruiting body found in Kew Gardens in the UK in 2003.

It measured approximately 150cm in diameter with a circumference of 425cm.

After their initial encounter with the new record-breaking fungus, the scientists took samples of it back to the lab where to be analysed.

These tests revealed that the fungus was the species Fomitiporia ellipsoidea, and the researchers made two subsequent trips to study the specimen further.


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Fighting Aliens with Aliens

Scientific American March 9 2010
By John Platt.

Fighting aliens with aliens: U.K. imports insect species to tackle invasive plant

For the first time in U.K. history, an alien species (meaning one that is not native to the area) will be let loose in the kingdom to combat the growth of another species—also introduced.

Millions of sap-sucking psyllids (Aphalara itadori) will be imported into the U.K. to fight the Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), an invasive species first introduced during Victorian times that has since become an ecosystem-choking threat. Alien species are considered “invasive” once they become difficult to control and squeeze out native species.

According to a report in Britain’s Daily Mail, knotweed “grows through concrete and asphalt, damages buildings and walls, weakens flood defenses, and crowds out other plants.” The U.K. spends $2.4 billion annually fighting the plant.

The knotweed has no natural predator in the U.K. but the psyllid, also known as jumping plant lice, is the knotweed’s natural enemy in Japan, where the insect helps keep the plant in check. In fact, the psyllid eats knotweed exclusively. And according to tests conducted by the nonprofit Center for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), the psyllid will not feed on any native plants. (Although it will, itself, be eaten by existing local predators.)

Knotweed has also spread throughout North America, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies it as an invasive species, as well. According to the Plant Conservation Alliance, which provides some resources on how to fight the weed, “Japanese knotweed spreads quickly to form dense thickets that exclude native vegetation and greatly alter natural ecosystems. It poses a significant threat to riparian areas, where it can survive severe floods and is able to rapidly colonize scoured shores and islands. Once established, populations are extremely persistent.”

Obviously, introducing one alien species to fight another sometimes has unintended consequences, as Australia’s cane toad problem readily illustrates. But CABI points out that the cane toad’s introduction in 1935 to control pest beetles was carried out against the advice of scientists. And writing for the BBC, CABI chief scientist Matthew Cock points out that out of 400 different “biological agents” released to combat “weed species” in the last 110 years, “only nine produced any collateral damage, such as feeding on native species.”

Meanwhile, U.K. wildlife minister, Huw Irranca-Davies, says this is the best way to rid the country of Japanese knotweed: “This project is not only groundbreaking, it offers real hope that we can redress the balance.”

A similar psyllid was released in Florida a few years ago to fight melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia), an invasive tree from Australia, although results so far are inconclusive. (An introduced weevil was more successful at controlling the trees.)

Psyllids aren’t always beneficial to their environments. One psyllid species, a more invasive insect that somehow snuck into Florida around 1998, has transmitted huanglongbing (HLB), or citrus greening disease, throughout Florida’s citrus industry.

Tags: Conservation, ecology, invasive species

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Life in Fresh Water – Resource by FSC UK

This resource is managed by the field studies council, FSC, an environmental education charity that helps people understand field studies and nature. It has 17 centers across UK and offers A levels field studies for students. Other courses include nature photography.

Had the chance to visit the center and attend a 2 week course there. Must say it is very well run and offers excellent field studies programmes.

It has a whole host of online resources here.

Of particular interest would be the Life in Freshwater which has resources on freshwater ecology, including a species guide to Singapore fauna.


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Lungless Frog Barbourula kalmantanesis


This might be a milestone in macroevolutionary studies. How does a tetrapod lose its lungs?

Sad thing is that frog faces severe threat of habitat degradation.

For more reads –

The Enigmatic Bornean Lungless Frog – Barbourula kalimantanensis (Anura: Bombinatoridae) – A First Hand Encounter – By Dr Tan Heok Hui

First Lungless Frog Found – By National Geographic

Siva’s writeup

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Biology Overseas Fieldtrip to Tanjung Sutera Resort, Sedili 13-14 March 2008

39 students and 5 teachers went to Tanjung Sutera Resort, Sedili for a field studies course. The focus of the trip will be a visit to an palm oil mill and an investigation on rocky shore ecology. Despite the very wet weather, all of the trip’s objectives were met.

The team first went to the Felda palm oil processing mill where short presentation on the various stages of palm oil processing was conducted, the students also had a chance to examine the products at various stages of palm oil processing before going for a short tour of the mill.

At Tanjung Sutera resort, the team continued their discussion on the issue of using palm oil as a biofuel. Once the weather clears up, they quickly moved down to the rocky shore for a quick walk to explore the various organisms at the high intertidal region. Amongst the interesting things seen were land crabs, hermit crabs, goose barnacles, and the shell of a horse shoe crab. The team moved back for dinner when it started raining.

After a short lesson on intertidal ecology, the team went down for an amphibian survey. They had the good fortune of seeing the four lined tree frog, banded bull frog, dark spotted chorus frog and also the asiatic toad. What is particularly interesting were the banded bull frogs congregating together at a pond and the males trying to out do each other with their mating calls. The result was this cacophony of frog calls, bull frogs dominating the majority of the air time, chorus frogs sneaking in between.

The next morning’s weather was perfect for the rocky shore transect. All spent a good 2 hours exploring the various zones where the transition of organisms at various zones were very distinct. As they progressed toward the low intertidal zone, organisms such as sea anemone, sea cucumbers and swimming crabs began to appear. The interplay of abiotic factors and biotic factors were clearly shown in the students’ transect data.

Photos of the trip here



This was a compact field studies courses with ended with more questions for everyone to ponder over. For the coming term, there will be a Kent Ridge walk organised by the Sec 4 Bio and History RA students.

Resource on Ecological studies on Amphibians – Sodhi, N.S., Bickford, D., Diesmos, A.C., Lee, T.M., Koh, L.P., Brook, B.W., Sekercioglu, C.H., Bradshaw, C.J.A. 2008. Measuring the Meltdown: Drivers of Global Amphibian Extinction and Decline. PLoS ONE 3(2): e1636. (PDF)

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Comparative Guide to Mangroves

A comparative guide to mangroves by Dr Jean Yong, NIE.
Comparative Guide to Mangroves


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Resources on Forest Fragmentation

Fragmentation and species loss –

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