Ergot fungus, SEM

Ergot fungus, SEM

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Credit: EYE OF SCIENCE/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Ergot fruiting body. Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of a fruiting body of the fungus ergot (Claviceps purpurea). The fruiting body is the sexual reproductive structure of a fungi. It contains millions of spores that are dispersed by wind and insects. The spores will germinate in favourable conditions and the cycle of infection will start again. This fungus infects cereal crops and grasses, causing a reduced yield. Ingestion of ergot causes poisoning (ergotism) in animals and humans, which can be fatal. Symptoms can include vomiting, gangrene and hallucinations. A number of medical drugs, as well as LSD, are derived from ergot.

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