Exhibition Gallery

Beautiful destroyer

Sarah A. Batterman (postdoctoral researcher)

Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Ramariopsis kunzei looks more like a white coral living under the sea than a mushroom living on the floor of a tropical forest. This beautiful fungal fruit is edible but, more important, plays an essential role in a forest’s nitrogen cycle. Fungi like this break down organic matter like leaves into nitrogen. Unfortunately, in the Panama tropical forest where this picture was taken, these fungi cannot break down enough organic material to provide the forest with all of the nitrogen it needs to recover from clear-cutting that occurred 12 years ago.