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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Fungal foraging behaviour and hyphal space exploration in micro-structured Soil Chips

Aleklett, Kristin; Ohlsson, Pelle; Bengtsson, Martin; Hammer, Edith C.;


How do fungi navigate through the complex microscopic maze-like structures found in the soil? Fungal behaviour, especially at the hyphal scale, is largely unknown and challenging to study in natural habitats such as the opaque soil matrix. We monitored hyphal growth behaviour and strategies of seven Basidiomycete litter decomposing species in a micro-fabricated "Soil Chip" system that simulates principal aspects of the soil pore space and its micro-spatial heterogeneity. The hyphae were faced with micrometre constrictions, sharp turns and protruding obstacles, and the species examined were found to have profoundly different responses in terms of foraging range and persistence, spatial exploration and ability to pass obstacles. Hyphal behaviour was not predictable solely based on ecological assumptions, and our results obtained a level of trait information at the hyphal scale that cannot be fully explained using classical concepts of space exploration and exploitation such as the phalanx/guerrilla strategies. Instead, we propose a multivariate trait analysis, acknowledging the complex trade-offs and microscale strategies that fungal mycelia exhibit. Our results provide novel insights about hyphal behaviour, as well as an additional understanding of fungal habitat colonisation, their foraging strategies and niche partitioning in the soil environment.

Published in

ISME Journal

2021, volume: 15, number: 6, pages: 1782-1793

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Plant Protection Biology
Lund University
Ohlsson, Pelle
Lund University
Bengtsson, Martin
Lund University
Hammer, Edith C.
Lund University

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