Natural folding of airborne fungal spores: a mechanism for dispersal and long-term survival?

Frank J.J. Segers, Jan Dijksterhuis*, Marcel Giesbers, Alfons J.M. Debets

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalBook/Film/Article reviewScientific

6 Citations (Scopus)


Analysis of numerous air samples has indicated that dormant, viable fungal spores are highly present, which suggests that aerial dispersion is important for fungi. Whereas the majority of the spores may travel only very short distances, there is indication that a notable number of them cover much longer distances. Harmomegathy is a terminology coined by Wodehouse (1935) describing the natural folding of pollen to accommodate controlled and reversible water loss. Here, we discuss evidence that this concept may also apply to airborne fungal spores that face similar challenges and have to survive periods of drought and low temperatures while retaining viability to germinate after deposition upon a suitable moist substrate. In fact, (air)dried conidia, appear collapsed, survive for much longer times compared to spores in liquid, that deteriorate in time. This indicates that for some types of fungal spores, true dormancy is reached in the desiccated state. For these airborne spores this might be regarded as a pre-adaptation that supports long-distance transport of viable cells through air. We state that spores are naturally folded during transport in air if the humidity is low enough. We hypothesize that this is a pre-adaptation supporting release, dispersal and survival of airborne spores. Moreover, the smaller size of dry naturally-folded spores may also be relevant, e.g. for the opportunistic pathogenic fungus Aspergillus fumigatus reduced spore size supports deposition within the alveoli in the lung.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100292
JournalFungal Biology Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • Airborne
  • Conidia
  • Dispersion
  • Fungal spores
  • Harmomegathy
  • Pathogenicity
  • Survival


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