T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Cyathus stercoreus (Dung nest Fungi)

Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Basidiomycota
Class: Basidiomycetes
Order: Agaricales
Family: Nidulariaceae
Genus: Cyathus
Species: C. stercoreus
Binomial name: Cyathus stercoreus
Common name: Dung nest fungus, Dung-loving bird's nest.

Cyathus stercoreus is a species that has a worldwide distribution which prefers growing on dung, or soil containing dung; the specific epithet is derived from the Latin word stercorarius, meaning "of dung". 
Its fruiting bodies resemble tiny bird's nests filled with eggs. The fruiting bodies are referred to as splash cups, because they are designed to use the force of falling drops of water that hits the interior of the cup at the appropriate angle and velocity to dislodge and disperse their peridioles (small capsules of spores) by ejecting them into the air. The force of ejection tears open the purse, and results in the expansion of the funicular cord, formerly coiled under pressure in the lower part of the purse. The peridioles, followed by the highly adhesive funicular cord and basal hapteron (holdfast), may hit a nearby plant stem or stick. The hapteron sticks to it, and the funicular cord wraps around the stem or stick powered by the force of the still-moving peridiole. After drying out, the peridiole remains attached to the vegetation, where it may be eaten by a grazing herbivorous animal, and later deposited in that animal's dung to continue the life cycle.

Photographed April in a local vegetable garden.
Growing peridium ( the protective layer that encloses a mass of spores in fungi.) 

The splash cups and the peridioles

The life cycle of a bird nest fungi 
The Illustration is by Elaine M. Collins, Palomar College; modified from Canadian Journal of Botany 29: 224-234, 1951.