Journal of Biosciences

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 57–79 | Cite as

Life-history ofNeurospora intermedia in a sugar cane field

  • Alka Pandit
  • Ramesh Maheshwari


The life-history ofNeurospora in nature has remained largely unknown. The present study attempts to remedy this. The following conclusions are based on observation ofNeurospora on fire-scorched sugar cane in agricultural fields, and reconstruction experiments using a colour mutant to inoculate sugar cane burned in the laboratory. The fungus persists in soil as heat- resistant dormant ascospores. These are activated by a chemical(s) released into soil from the burnt substrate. The chief diffusible activator of ascospores is furfural and the germinating ascospores infect the scorched substrate. An invasive mycelium grows progressively upwards inside the juicy sugar cane and produces copious macroconidia externally through fire- induced openings formed in the plant tissue, or by the mechanical rupturing of the plant epidermal tissue by the mass of mycelium. The loose conidia are dispersed by wind and/or foraged by microfauna. It is suggested that the constant production of macroconidia, and their ready dispersal, serve a physiological role: to drain the substrate of minerals and soluble sugars, thereby creating nutritional conditions which stimulate sexual reproduction by the fungus. Sexual reproduction in the sugar- depleted cellulosic substrate occurs after macroconidiation has ceased totally and is favoured by the humid conditions prevailing during the monsoon rains. Profuse micro-conidiophores and protoperithecia are produced simultaneously in the pockets below the loosened epidermal tissue. Presumably protoperithecia are fertilized by microconidia which are possibly transmitted by nematodes active in the dead plant tissue. Mature perithecia release ascospores in situ which are passively liberated in the soil by the disintegration of the plant material and are, apparently, distributed by rain or irrigation water.


Neurospora life-history ascospores macroconidia microconidia dispersal dormancy furfural germination 


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Copyright information

© Indian Academy of Sciences 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiochemistryIndian Institute of ScienceBangaloreIndia

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