Friday, August 27, 2010

Adventures in a subtropical rainforest: Part 3

In this post, I'll concentrate on food. No, not the endless country pub meals of steak and chips, but the cuisine that consists of rainforest flora, both dead and alive. Of course, the substrate is alive with arthropods of huge diversity, but I wasn't digging down to find them. Insects made their appetite evident in the eaten leaves of many plants, but this is a particularly nice example of insect herbivory:

Beetle galleries

This is a beetle gallery, the result of bark beetles boring through the outer bark of the tree, then eating tunnels through the cambium layer beneath. Here the bark has been shed.

The great consumers of dead (and sometimes living) plant material are the fungi. What we see above ground or on the surface of logs are just the fruiting bodies. Beneath, there are kilometres of minutely thin filaments digesting and breaking down wood and other organic matter, converting it into a form that's usable by bacteria. Bulburin boasts some spectacular specimens.

Orange fungi on log

Brown fungi

Fungi in tree cleft

Orange fungi

Next post: Lichen.

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