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Keywords:

  • Dispersal;
  • Mesophellia;
  • Eucalyptus;
  • Gastrolobium;
  • hypogeous fungi;
  • marsupials;
  • mycorrhizas

Summary

The marsupial, Bettongia penicillata (Gray), is the major consumer of hypogeous fungi in eucalypt forest at Perup, Western Australia. The rate of excavation of sporocarps increases after fire.

The spores of at least 18 fungi were indicated in faecal pellets, 10 of which could be assigned to hypogeous sporocarps present at the site. Most spores belonged to the ectomycorrhizal genus Mesophellia.

Faecal pellets applied to seedlings of Eucalyptus calophylla R.Br. and Gastrolobium bilobum R. Br. in autoclaved soil induced the formation of seven ectomycorrhizal types accompanied by a marked stimulation of growth compared with the controls. Inoculation with fresh spores of two Mesophellia species failed to produce mycorrhizas, suggesting that digestion may be the usual pre-treatment for germination.

It is concluded that this mammal is a reliable and efficient dispersal and inoculation agent for ectomycorrhizal fungi via its faeces, and that it plays a key role in re-establishment of vegetation after fire.