Decomposition is a quiet and mostly hidden process. Those organisms involved in the business of decomposing generally tend to their job without a lot of fanfare. And yet these ecological heroes play an important role in the natural cycle of life. If it wasn’t for decomposers, dead matter would pile up, and new organisms would not receive essential nutrients for growth and development.
Some examples of decomposers include: certain types of worms, slugs and snail, but a majority are either bacteria or fungi (including molds and yeasts).
On a recent trip through the woods, with my camera in hand, I came upon an odd sight–A mushroom (the spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus), with the aerial filaments of a mold (a type of fungus) radiating from below the mushroom’s cap.
I believe this is a parasitic pin mold known as Spinellus fusiger. If you look closely at the tips of each stalk, you will see that they contain minute, spherical structures. These tiny structures are called sporangia, and they contain the spores which allow the mold to reproduce.
When I first saw this mushroom, a picture formed in my head of a little fish being eaten by a bigger fish, and then an even larger fish eating that one. Only in the case of decomposers it is usually the smaller “fish” that eats the larger ones.