Merlin Sheldrake is an English biologist.
- All page numbers are from the hardcover first edition published by Random House ISBN 978-0-525-51031-4, fifth printing
- The impact of fungal diseases is increasing across the world: Unsustainable agricultural practices reduce the ability of plants to form relationships with the beneficial fungi on which they depend. The widespread use of antifungal chemicals has led to an unprecedented rise in new fungal superbugs that threaten both human and plant health.
- Introduction, “What is it Like to be a Fungus?” (p. 8)
- Tricked out of our expectations, we fall back on our senses. What’s astonishing is the gulf between what we expect to find and what we find when we actually look.
- Introduction, “What is it Like to be a Fungus?” (pp. 14-15)
- The more of their surroundings that hyphae can touch, the more they can consume. The difference between animals and fungi is simple: Animals put food in their bodies, whereas fungi put their bodies in the food.
- Chapter 2, “Living Labyrinths” (p. 51)
- It is no longer possible to conceive of any organism—humans included—as distinct from the microbial communities they share a body with.
- Chapter 3, “The Intimacy of Strangers” (p. 91)
- The success of this approach depends on the ecological fit. Poorly matched mycorrhizal species might do more harm to plants than good. Worse, introducing opportunistic fungal species to new environments might displace local fungal strains with unknown ecological consequences. It is a fact not always taken into account by the fast-growing industry of commercial mycorrhizal products, often marketed as one-size-fits-all quick fixes. As in the ballooning market for human probiotics, many of the microbial strains sold are selected not because they are particularly suitable but because they are easy to produce in manufacturing facilities.
- Chapter 5, “Before Roots” (p. 146)
- It is in part these properties of a network—known as “scale-free” properties—that allow diseases, news, and fashions to cascade rapidly through populations. It is the same scale-free properties of a shared mycorrhizal network that might allow a young plant to survive in a heavily shaded understory, or infochemicals to ripple out across a stand of trees in a forest. “A young seedling will quickly become tied up within a complex, interwoven, and stable network,” Beiler explained. “You would expect this to increase its chances of survival and increase the resilience of the forest.” But only up to a point. It is the same scale-free properties that make a wood wide web vulnerable to targeted attacks. Eliminate Google and Amazon and Facebook overnight or shut down the three busiest airports in the world, and you’ll cause havoc. Selectively remove large hub trees—as many commercial logging operations do in an effort to extract the most valuable timber—and serious disruption will ensue.
- Chapter 6, “Wood Wide Webs” (pp. 169-170)
- Fermentation is domesticated decomposition—rot rehoused.
- Chapter 8, “Making Sense of Fungi” (p. 206)