Mycology Reading Group

Mycology Reading Group

I’m thinking about starting a mycology reading group, with an initial focus on fungal biology and ecology.

We’d read one academic paper every two weeks and meet via video to discuss. We could use the forum to share our notes and engage in asynchronous discussion, steadily building a knowledge base as we go. No prior formal biology education would be required - just curiosity and a willingness to engage in shared learning.

Group size of 3 - 9 would probably be ideal for the video calls - any larger and it becomes a bit challenging to include all voices and perspectives in a limited amount of time. We can decide on timezones etc. once we have the group assembled. If there’s a lot of interest we could always form multiple video call groups and all share together in a thread here.

Anyone who might be interested?


I propose we begin with this paper on combative interactions among wood decay basidiomycetes. It’s a relatively short read and deals with biological and ecological aspects of a range of saprotrophic and parasitic species, many of which are of interest to cultivators (including Trametes spp. and Ganoderma spp.):

Hiscox, J., O’Leary, J., & Boddy, L. (2018). Fungus wars: basidiomycete battles in wood decay. Studies in mycology, 89, 117-124.

Link to the open-access paper


Understanding the mechanisms underlying wood decay basidiomycete community dynamics is crucial for fully understanding decomposition processes, and for modelling ecosystem function and resilience to environmental change. Competition drives community development in decaying woody resources, with interactions occurring at a distance, following physical contact, and through specialised relationships such as mycoparasitism. Outcomes of combative interactions range from replacement, where one mycelium displaces another, to deadlock, where neither combatant captures territory from the other; and a spectrum of intermediate outcomes (i.e. partial or mutual replacement) lie between these extremes. Many wood decay basidiomycetes coexist within a resource, in a complex and dynamic community, and new research techniques are focussing on spatial orientation of interactions in 3 dimensions, as opposed to historical two-dimensional research. Not only do interactions drive changes in species composition and thus wood decomposition rate, they also may have industrial applications in biocontrol of pathogenic or nuisance fungi, enzyme production, and in the production of novel antifungals and antibiotics. Altogether, fungal interactions are a fascinating and important field of study.

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First Meeting :new_moon:

Date: Wednesday, 13 January 02021
Time: 19:00 (UTC+1)
Place: Jitsi Meeting Room (video call)
Duration: 45 - 60 minutes
Language: English

We’ll be discussing the paper I mentioned in the previous post:

Fungus wars: basidiomycete battles in wood decay (link).

All are welcome to attend. You’re also welcome to come and listen, even if you don’t feel comfortable speaking :black_heart: We’ll begin with a short round of introductions and then we can share what we learned from the paper, what we found particularly interesting, what we might not have understood etc. Hope to see you there!


Our first reading group meeting is coming up this week! Here’s a recording of a presentation given by Professor Lynne Boddy, one of the co-authors of the paper we’ll be discussing, at a mycological gathering in Norway. The video is a great companion to the paper.

Lynne Boddy - Fungus Wars: Basidiomycete Battles in Wood Decay

This gathering is happening today (in approximately 10 hours). Hope to meet some of you there!

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Very entertaining presenter, glad I watched! Sorry I can’t make the group!

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First Meeting Notes :new_moon:

Four of us met to discuss the paper (Fungus wars: basidiomycete battles in wood decay), including @notplants, @Lando and Anne. It was a delightful gathering.

Here’s my best attempt at summarising the paper:

Species of wood decay basidiomycetes compete with one another for territory and nutrition. The offensive and defensive capabilities of these fungi - which include the release of anti-fungal compounds and detoxifying compounds, growth of hyphal barriers and modulation of pH - vary according to the niche occupied by each species. Some specialise in being among the first species to colonise a resource (R-selected) and are typified by their rapid spore germination, growth and mushroom production, while others specialise in secondary colonisation (C-selected) and employ combative techniques to displace existing species. These community assemblages of species move through wood in successional waves over spacetime.

In some cases, these competitive interactions among species enhance the rate of degradation of the wood substrate - either due to niche partitioning (degrading different molecules compared with the competitor) or due to accelerated metabolic activity to meet the energetic demands of combat (production of secondary metabolites etc.). These insights may have applications in mycoremediation, with species complexes potentially resulting in more rapid and complete degradation of toxins.

Some questions that came from the discussion:

  • What’s the difference between homokaryotic and heterokaryotic mycelia? What impact does this have on degradation and combat abilities?
  • What other factors influence the decomposition outcomes? How might we optimise for heightened downstream biodiversity or nutrient availability by shaping the degradation processes?

And then some meta-discussion about paper selection, group activities, meeting logistics:

Anne shared that IASS (Potsdam) gives out fellowships each year. If we had a great idea of what we could contribute to science, we could apply.

@notplants shared their appreciation for the high-level nature of the chosen paper and requested similar papers on the topics of decomposition outcomes and mycoremediation.

I shared my intention to create a resource / how-to guide for navigating the academic literature (how to search, how to evaluate the quality of search results, how to branch-out and find more papers etc.)

Anne mentioned the Web of Science tool (, saying that it’s really useful for generating maps of related papers (both before and after publication). She also raised the idea of creating a podcast from the reading group, perhaps simply recording the meeting to start with (I’m super keen on this idea).

@notplants requested that we try to keep meetings to 1 hour. I agreed and suggested we might aim to spend 5 minutes on check-ins, 45 minutes on discussion and 5 minutes on check-out.

I volunteered to continue finding potential articles for us to read and presenting them here for collective selection.

I definitely missed out a few things but that’s a broad overview of the proceedings :slight_smile:

I’m already looking forward to the next one and will soon post candidate papers for the next gathering.

Great thanks for the feedback! Podcast sounds great! :slight_smile:

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based on a conversation I just had with @glyph here sharing some more topics that would be interesting to me to read more about


  • ways of thinking about it
  • studies of observing and measuring it
  • studies of ways of reversing it

Culture Libraries (for preservation, and frameworks for measuring and developing strains)

Leaf Cutter Ants, and their strategies for cultivation

Both theoretically and concretely. On the concrete side, I would be curious to look for a study of Senescence in Pleurotus Ostreatus, and how many generations of grain spawn it takes to see the effects.

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and if the main aspect of Senescence is number of cell replications since sexual reproduction,
what is it about sexual reproduction that gives this initial “Life Energy”

Second Meeting :full_moon:

Date: Thursday, 28 January 02021
Time: 19:00 (UTC+1)
Place: Jitsi Meeting Room (video call)
Duration: 45 - 60 minutes
Language: English

I’d like to stick with a twice-per-month schedule but we can shift the date if it doesn’t work for a lot of folx.

I’m proposing three paper options for this session (trying to offer a variety of topics while also keeping a of thread of continuity so we don’t jump around too much).

  1. Phylogenetic patterns of ant–fungus associations indicate that farming strategies, not only a superior fungal cultivar, explain the ecological success of leafcutter ants (link).

  2. Potential impacts of climate change on interactions among saprotrophic cord-forming fungal mycelia and grazing soil invertebrates (link).

  3. Analysis of fungal networks (link).

Not all of these papers are open-access. Please send me a private message if you need help accessing them.

Let’s try a poll for voting :slight_smile:

Paper for 2nd meeting
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

0 voters

Hi all, kieran a.k.a. kyphae (on scuttlebutt) a.k.a. magpie, very interested in joining this reading group though may not be able to make every session as I’m studying a MSc in Dynamical Systems at the moment which consumes a lot of my time. I have the long-term intention of leaning more into computational analysis of fungal ecologies, so this is a perfect opportunity to integrate! Unfortunately I won’t be able to make the next meet but will participate asynchronously.

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Hi there everyone!
I just happened upon this amazing idea. I’m fire for the paper on networks!

I’m very keen on doing this regularly and do have a quite a few sources that I’d like to share with you as well - here is the book series “The Mycota” on my google drive: The Mycota

Looking forward to meeting you!
@glyph do you know an Alana? She’s sitting in my kitchen right now :slightly_smiling_face:


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I’ve closed the voting poll for the next session (Thursday, 28 January 02021). We’ll be discussing paper (3):

Heaton L, Obara B, Grau V, et al. (2012). Analysis of fungal networks. Fungal Biology Reviews, 26(1): 12-29.

Please message me if you need access to the paper. Looking forward to seeing and hearing some of you! We will post notes here for those who are unable to attend.


Hey kieran! It’s terrific to see you here; been a long time since we spoke. The MSc sounds very interesting. I’d love to hear more about that at some point. Looking forward to having you on a future call :slight_smile:

Hi @phylanx, I’ve very happy to hear you like the reading group idea! Thanks for sharing The Mycota series and for voting on the poll. I’m really looking forward to taking my mycological understanding to the next level in this collaborative learning exercise.

I don’t think Alana and I have ever met before. Maybe that will happen on one of these gatherings :blush: Take care, hope to see you soon.

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@glyph: I found out that it is @notplants who knows her :slight_smile:

I’m reading the paper but I fear I will not be able to finish it until tomorrow since I’m super busy these days. It’s highly interesting to me though and I’m looking forward to our meeting!

hi all, @glyph is not feeling well today so won’t be able to make it,
but I’ll still be there at 19:00 UTC+1 for anyone keen to join

here is the jitsi link again: jisti

happy full moon

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I received a spam email from a website that I tried to read the previous paper through (, before realizing you need to pay,
and the spam email said “you read Fungal Analysis, you might also like this paper”
, and it suggested this paper (PDF) Growth-induced mass flows in fungal networks | Luke Heaton -

which looks interesting, probably one of the best spam mail I’ve received



That is A-grade spam. I receive similar emails from Mendeley and they’ve already blessed me with some tasty treats.

Maybe we can add the mass flows paper to the two which were not chosen from the last session (ant-fungus associations and climate change impacts) and run another poll? Seems like a nice pattern to vote on three options each time and slowly work through all the suggestions.

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Third Meeting :new_moon:

Date: Thursday, 11 February 02021
Time: 19:00 (UTC+1)
Place: Jitsi Meeting Room (video call)
Duration: 60 minutes
Language: English

Time to pick a paper for our next meeting. I’m proposing three paper options again this time, two that were left-over from the last vote and one new paper suggested by @notplants .

  1. Phylogenetic patterns of ant–fungus associations indicate that farming strategies, not only a superior fungal cultivar, explain the ecological success of leafcutter ants (link ).
  2. Potential impacts of climate change on interactions among saprotrophic cord-forming fungal mycelia and grazing soil invertebrates (link).
  3. Growth-induced mass flows in fungal networks (link).

Not all of these papers are open-access. Please send me a private message if you need help accessing them.

Here’s a voting poll. I’m going to try and get these polls up earlier in the future so we have more time for reading the paper after a choice has been made.

Paper for 3rd meeting
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

0 voters

Alrighty, I think it’s safe to say we have a clear front-runner for our third meeting. I’ve closed the voting. Coming up on Thursday we’ll be reading (3):

Mueller U, Kardish M, Ishak H, et al. (2018). Phylogenetic patterns of ant–fungus associations indicate that farming strategies, not only a superior fungal cultivar, explain the ecological success of leafcutter ants. Molecular Ecology, 27(10): 2414-2434.


To elucidate fungicultural specializations contributing to ecological dominance of leafcutter ants, we estimate the phylogeny of fungi cultivated by fungus-growing (attine) ants, including fungal cultivars from (i) the entire leafcutter range from southern South America to southern North America, (ii) all higher-attine ant lineages (leafcutting genera Atta, Acromyrmex; nonleafcutting genera Trachymyrmex, Sericomyrmex) and (iii) all lower-attine lineages. Higher-attine fungi form two clades, Clade-A fungi (Leucocoprinus gongylophorus, formerly Attamyces) previously thought to be cultivated only by leafcutter ants, and a sister clade, Clade-B fungi, previously thought to be cultivated only by Trachymyrmex and Sericomyrmex ants. Contradicting this traditional view, we find that (i) leafcutter ants are not specialized to cultivate only Clade-A fungi because some leafcutter species ranging across South America cultivate Clade-B fungi; (ii) Trachymyrmex ants are not specialized to cultivate only Clade-B fungi because some Trachymyrmex species cultivate Clade-A fungi and other Trachymyrmex species cultivate fungi known so far only from lower-attine ants; (iii) in some locations, single higher-attine ant species or closely related cryptic species cultivate both Clade-A and Clade-B fungi; and (iv) ant–fungus co-evolution among higher-attine mutualisms is therefore less specialized than previously thought. Sympatric leafcutter ants can be ecologically dominant when cultivating either Clade-A or Clade-B fungi, sustaining with either cultivar-type huge nests that command large foraging territories; conversely, sympatric Trachymyrmex ants cultivating either Clade-A or Clade-B fungi can be locally abundant without achieving the ecological dominance of leafcutter ants. Ecological dominance of leafcutter ants therefore does not depend primarily on specialized fungiculture of L. gongylophorus (Clade-A), but must derive from ant–fungus synergisms and unique ant adaptations.

Please message me if you need access to the paper. Looking forward to seeing and hearing some of you!

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