I have a growing body (so to speak) of resources on the “human microbiome”–that living cosmos of thousands of species and gazillions of individual living organisms that we each call ME.
Case in point, quickly, because I have weed-whacking duties before the sun crests the ridge–you have some 100 or more fungi living on your feet alone.
The image above (click to enlarge in Flickr) shows a mycological community hopefully such as you’d only see growing out of a plant, although the blue polypores would go well emerging near my baby-blues, don’t you think?
Tree trunks like this are common in mature woods (this one growing near Konnarock below Mt Rogers) where trees live long enough to have the diseases of old age. The fungal threads, whose total biomass far exceeds the visible external “mushroom” part of the fungus, secrete enzymes that break cellulose and lignin into digestible sugars. This may come in handy in a future where cellulosic biomass may contribute to local energy needs.
Without this service of decay, the world would quickly fill up with dead but undecayed organic matter, tying up the building blocks needed by the next generation of growing things. Not to mention that the un-rot would just pile up deeper and deeper on the forest floor.
More conversation, perhaps some morning after the days get shorter again, on the colossal community that is the human microbiome. We are legion.