Essays - by Stephen G. Saupe, Ph.D.; Biology Department, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, Collegeville, MN 56321;;

The Biology of Resurrection:  Life After Death in Fungi

 (these are the notes from a seminar that I have presented)

I.  What?
Cryptobiosis - �hidden or latent life�; i.e., anhydrobiosis � able to withstand desiccation (other terms - abiosis, anabiosis)

II.  Who?

III. How Long?

IV.  Since when? (a brief history)

1702 Antony von Leeuwenhoek  70 years old; �animacules� from roof sediments
1743 John Tuberville Needham Jesuit; eel worms (nematodes) in blighted wheat galls
1753 Henry Baker confirmed Needham;  �Life may be suspended and seeming destroyed�and yet, after a long while, Life may begin anew��
1769  Lazzaro Spallanzani   �no way Needham!� (no experiments)
1769 Needham  recants � wimp
1776/95 D. Maurice Roffredi/Felice Fontana confirm Needham�s work on eel worms, chastise wimpy Needham
1776/03  Spallanzani  �oops, sorry!� performed experiments on the stability of desiccated state; �privileged by nature, so to enjoy real resurrection after death�
1823 Francis Bauer more eel worms (worked @ Kew with Sir Joseph Banks)
1838 Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg life slowed, opponent of resurrection; erroneously suggested rotifers could thrive in dry sand
1842 Louis Doyere studied resistance of desiccated state; suggested molecular arrangement endowed with potential for life
1858/9  Doyere vs FA Pouchet  Resurrectionist (Doyere) vs Anti-resurectionist  (Pouchet) - major controversy/debate (parallel to spontaneous generation arguments)
1859  C. Darwin Origin of Species � no big deal! (at least related to this issue)
1859 P. Broca & Commission of Biological Society of France settled debate, sided with Doyere, but stopped short of saying all life stopped.  Was the Church a factor as Broca speculated? Not.
1960�s James Clegg, John & Lois Crowe, et al  physiological/biochemical investigations with brine shrimp & nematodes
1978 Saupe isolates trehalose from Marasmius oreades (revives upon drying); No big deal!?
1985  Saupe  finally wakes up!

V.  How do they do it?
    Survival correlated with the synthesis and accumulation of carbohydrates, such as trehalose and glycerol, during desiccation.

 Trehalose = 1- a - D- Glucopyranosyl - a - D- glucopyranoside

structure not inserted

VI. How does trehalose work?  A model:  not inserted

VII.  Do Higher fungi resurrect?  Yes!

Table:  Generic Features for Marasmius & Collybia according to Fries (1835)
Feature Marasmius Collybia
Spores white white
Stipe texture cartilaginous cartilaginous
Revive? yes no

VIII. Does Marasmius oreades revive?

IX.  Is trehalose involved?  - In yeast � YES!

X.  Is trehalose involved in other fungi?  Maybe

XI.  Can any specimen revive? 
Screening program show few over about 2 years dry (in air), none older 5 yr.

XII.  Philosophical Implications

Life is nothing more, nothing less than the arrangement of certain molecules.

B. Rensberger.  Science 80 (Nov)

Only when the structure is damaged or destroyed does the organism pass from the state of that of death. 

D. Keilin (1959)

 XIII.  Ecological Implications  

XIV.            Who cares?

References:  (further reading)

| Top | Essay Home | SGS Home | CSB/SJU Home | Biology Dept
 © Copyright 03/14/2004 by SG Saupe