Research on Wallabies
A wallaby looks like a smaller version of the kangaroo and is also a member of the marsupial family. The research on how a swamp wallaby spreads truffle seeds in its environment was led by Dr. Melissa Danks from the Edith Cowan University, alongside her colleagues from the University of New England. The researchers fed truffles to the wallabies and tracked the time it took for truffle spores to become present in the animals’ excrement. The results showed spores within 51 hours to up to 3 days. By attaching temporary GPS trackers on the animals, researchers learned that the animals could end up releasing truffle spores through their excrement more than 4000 feet from the original feeding site. This makes them very effective at dispersing truffles throughout the forest.
The Significance of Truffles
This discovery has wide-ranging implications on forest conservation for several reasons. While mushrooms release their spores into the air, truffles are found underground and the spores are located within the truffle’s flesh. That’s why truffles need to be eaten by an animal in order for their spores to be released elsewhere. Why are truffles so important? They live in mutually-beneficial relationships with the trees and plants under which they develop. They help these plants take nutrients and water from the soil, and even protect them from diseases. As browsing animals, wallabies feed on leaves, ferns, as well as mushrooms, and truffles. Dr. Melissa Danks states that, with forest systems becoming more fragmented, understanding the dispersal of truffle spores and this animal’s role in that process is crucial!