Simulations to understand the spore dispersal strategy

Fungi move around the globe, dispersing their spores into the atmosphere. It affects millions of species, including pathogenic organisms. About 10,000 simulations have been performed to understand their transport in the atmosphere, revealing that the moment of release of the spores plays a very important role for their survival.

Some fungi release their spores at a specific time each day, while others do so irregularly. Many fungi cause devastating pathologies for plants, such as white rot or black rust, and for animals, such as white nose syndrome, which is ravaging North American bat populations. In order to better understand the spread of fungi including pathogens, researchers from the Institute of Physics in Nice (INPHYNI, CNRS / Université Côte d'Azur), Wisconsin-Madison University (United States) and the University of Genoa (Italy) carried out around 10,000 numerical simulations, following the journey of 100,000 spores released every day at different times of the day in January, April, July and October 2014 from 10 locations in North America. They used data from the United States Meteorological Agency (NOAA) for this purpose with tools from statistical physics and fluid dynamics. The transport of spores in the atmosphere is dictated by turbulence, whose intensity changes depending on season, geography and time of day. The team demonstrated the importance of the timing of spore release for their survival. Spores released at night fall back to the soil in a few hours. Spores released during the day, are carried up by hot air rising in the upper layers of the atmosphere, where spores dwell for several days. But spores may die in the process, as they are only able to withstand the harsh conditions in the atmosphere for a limited amount of time, often a few hours. Correctly timing spore liberation is crucial to spore survival in the atmosphere.


Release of spores at the spore, fungi and regional scale. © A. Seminara, INPHYNI (CNRS/Univ. Côte d’Azur)


Original french version in Actualité du CNRS.



Timing of fungal spore release dictates survival during atmospheric transport.

Daniele Lagomarsino Oneto, Jacob Golan, Andrea Mazzino, Anne Pringle, Agnese Seminara,

PNAS, le 25 février 2020.

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1913752117.

Article available on open-acces in arXiv et HAL.

Conact :

Agnese Seminara,

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