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Coprophilous Fungi  ( Dung Lovers)

There is a whole spectrum of fungi that spend their entire life on herbivore droppings. They are called coprophilous (= dung-loving) fungi.  There are hundreds of species of fungi found on dung not to mention hundreds more microsocpic species including amoebae, ciliates, flagellates, and other protozoa, rotifers, tardigrades, nematodes etc plus of course algae and all kinds of  arthropods such as springtails and always of course insects and/or their larvae.   Indeed, a number of people have spent their entire professional lives studying coprophilous fungi.  As for myself,  I preferred collecting soil samples as they didn’t smell,  they were a lot easier to handle, and my long suffering wife didn't mind too much if I stored them in the fridge!    I used to think that someone who devoted their entire life to dung was a bit strange.   However, I found out later that some of my ‘coprophilous’ collegues had a very nice time collecting dung of many exotic animals from a host of exotic places with all (or most ) expenses paid!   More fool me!    Herbivore droppings  also make great stuff for student labs or projects on fungi.   In fact a few collections of dung at the beginning of the can keep you going for the rest of the semester.   Not only that you can recover   very interesting fungi covering all of the major fungal groups.  Coprophilous fungi not only have interesting life cycles but they are often aesthetically very attractive.   Despite this you don’t see too many photomicrographs of ‘coprofungi’ on the web.   If you have the availability of a microscope then studying this group is a very rewarding hobby for serious amateur mycologists,  although I suspect you’ll have to pay your own way to exotic spots. And explaining to the customs agents the nature of your samples would be an interesting experience for all.    By the way you can dry down droppings,   put them in a package and rewet at leisure!  They can keep for decades!    At the Mycological Society of America annual meeting collections of exotic dung are often auctioned off to a bunch of eager bidders.  There is a nicely illustrated book on Dung Fungi in New Zealand by Ann Bell and the British Mycological society as Keys to Dung Fungi  now available.

Back to the web page - below I have illustrated a few of the many fungi that have been recorded from dung. 

Ascobolus  wpe3.jpg (34049 bytes)  Chaetomium  wpe3.jpg (31872 bytes)

        

Pilobolus  wpe7.jpg (29890 bytes)         Rhizopus    wpe3.jpg (14076 bytes)         

              

Syncephalastrum    wpe21.jpg (18740 bytes)