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A test of camera surveys to study fungus-animal interactions

Schmid, Leonie, Bässler, Claus, Schaefer, Hanno, Krah, Franz-Sebastian
Mycoscience 2019 v.60 no.5 pp. 287-292
Lactarius, animals, cameras, color, insects, mushrooms, spores, surveys, wind
Spores of mushroom-forming fungi are thought to be passively dispersed by wind. Studies of the spore morphology and ecological studies suggest, however, that dispersal by animals might also play a role. Since simultaneous and long-term observations of fungus-animal interactions are not feasible, we test the efficiency of time-lapse camera surveys followed by motion detection analysis. We surveyed 21 mushrooms of seven species for three days (daytime). We found mainly insects, with an average activity of 481 visits per fungal species per day. The estimated average animal size was 18 mm2. Due to the small animal size, the image quality did not allow detailed taxon identification. Animal activity on Lactarius vellereus was significantly higher than on all other species. In general, the more light-colored and larger mushrooms and species with ornamented spores showed higher activity. A test for false negatives, however, suggests that background color lightness potentially biases results. Camera surveys could thus contribute to the study of fungus-animal interactions. However, the use of higher-resolution images, 24 h survey and a reduction of the bias caused by background lightness are necessary.