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Summary

We show that fungi that forage for wood do not conform to the paradigm of symmetric radial growth and grow asymmetrically by default. Asymmetry is further accentuated by contact with a resource that also partially polarizes growth in the direction of the resource. Despite marked changes at the perimeter, overall growth allocation on an area basis is, however, unchanged implying sophisticated regulation at the colony level. Using mathematical models, we show that this behaviour is best explained as a local response of the immediate segment contacting the resource. The model reveals that foraging behaviour is adaptive but only for resources that are clustered in space and is selectively neutral for randomly scattered resources. This clustered spatial distribution matches that found in the natural environment. Modelling also shows that the foraging strategy used by these fungi involves substantial risks as well as benefits.