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No. 42: Nov-Dec 1985

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Fungus Manufactures Phony Blueberry Flowers

Mummy-berry disease is a fungus that preys on blueberries. It propagates itself by turning blueberry leaves into whitish, bell-like structures resembling true blueberry flowers. Bees deceived by this ruse land on the fake blossoms, pause for a moment to sip a sugary fluid (fortuitously) exuding from lesions on the leaves, accidentally pick up some fungus spores, and then fly off to true blueberry blossoms. The transferred spores infect other blueberry plants, causing them to produce white mummy-berries rather than blueberries. When spring comes round, the fungus-filled mummy-berries release the fungus to the leaves, and the cycle continues.

(Anonymous; "A Fungus That Courts with Phony Flowers," Science 85, 6:10, September 1985.)

Comment. The explanations usually served up for such remarkable adaptations are: (1) It is the product of chance and natural selection; and (2) The Creator made things this way. Are there not other possibilities? Perhaps the fungus somehow stole the blueprints for the flower from the blueberry's genome; i.e., genetic endowment. After all, viruses are always subverting cell machinery.

From Science Frontiers #42, NOV-DEC 1985. � 1985-2000 William R. Corliss