Many wild vertebrate and birds eat the fruit. Domestic animals eat them including my dog. I have seen a horse that foundered on persimmons. So basically all animals do. Be sure to tell your friends about us.
Persimmons are the edible fruit of a number of species of trees in the genus Diospyros. Diospyros is in the family Ebenaceae, and certain species of Diospyros are the sources of most kinds of ebony wood, and not all species bear edible fruit. In color the ripe fruit of the cultivated strains range from light yellow-orange to dark red-orange depending on the species and variety. They similarly vary in size from 1.5 to 9 cm (0.5 to 4 in) in diameter, and in shape the varieties may be spherical, acorn-, or pumpkin-shaped. The calyx generally remains attached to the fruit after harvesting, but becomes easy to remove once the fruit is ripe. The ripe fruit has a high glucose content. The protein content is low, but it has a balanced protein profile. Persimmon fruits have been put to various medicinal and chemical uses.
Like the tomato, persimmons are not popularly considered to be berries, but in terms of botanical morphology the fruit is in fact a berry.
The word Diospyros comes from the ancient Greek words "Dios" (διός) and "pyros" (πυρος). In context, this means more or less "divine fruit", though its literal meaning is closer to "Wheat of Zeus". It is, however, sufficiently confusing to have given rise to some curious interpretations, such as "God's pear" and "Jove's fire".
The word persimmon itself is derived from putchamin, pasiminan, or pessamin, from Powhatan, an Algonquian language of the eastern United States, meaning "a dry fruit".
Main article: Diospyros
While there are many species of Diospyros that bear fruit inedible to humans, the following are those that bear edible fruit:
The species (Diospyros kaki) is native to China. It is deciduous, with broad, stiff leaves and is known as the shizi (柿子 in Chinese), and also as the Japanese Persimmon or kaki (柿) in Japanese. It is the most widely cultivated species. Its fruits are sweet, and slightly tangy with a soft to occasionally fibrous texture. Cultivation of the fruit extended first to other parts of east Asia, and was later introduced to California and southern Europe in the 1800s, to Brazil in the 1890s, and numerous cultivars have been selected. It is edible in its crisp firm state, but has its best flavor when allowed to rest and soften slightly after harvest. The Japanese cultivar 'Hachiya' is widely grown. The fruit has a high tannin content which makes the immature fruit astringent and bitter. The tannin levels are reduced as the fruit matures. Persimmons like 'Hachiya' must be completely ripened before consumption. When ripe, this fruit comprises thick pulpy jelly encased in a waxy thin skinned shell.
"Sharon fruit" (named originally after the Sharon plain in Israel) is an Israeli-bred cultivar of the D. kaki fruit. The cultivar is called 'Triumph'. As with all pollination-variant-astringent persimmons, the fruit are ripened off the tree by exposing them to carbon dioxide. The sharon fruit has no core, is seedless, particularly sweet, and can be eaten whole.
The date-plum (Diospyros lotus) is native to southwest Asia and southeast Europe. It was known to the ancient Greeks as "the fruit of the gods", or often referred to as "nature's candy" i.e. Dios pyros (lit. "the wheat of Zeus"), hence the scientific name of the genus. Its English name probably derives from Persian Khormaloo خرمالو literally "date-plum", referring to the taste of this fruit which is reminiscent of both plums and dates. This species is one candidate for the lotus mentioned in the Odyssey: it was so delicious that those who ate it forgot about returning home and wanted to stay and eat lotus with the lotus-eaters.
The American Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) is native to the eastern United States and is higher in nutrients like vitamin C, calcium, iron and potassium than the Japanese Persimmon. Its fruit is traditionally eaten in a special steamed pudding in the Midwest and sometimes its timber is used as a substitute for ebony (e.g. in instruments).
The Black Persimmon or Black Sapote (Diospyros digyna) is native to Mexico. Its fruit has green skin and white flesh, which turns black when ripe.
The Mabolo or Velvet-apple (Diospyros discolor) is native to the Philippines. It is bright red when ripe. It is also native to China, where it is known as shizi. It is also known as Korean mango.
The Indian Persimmon (Diospyros peregrina) is a slow growing tree, native to coastal West Bengal. It is green and turns yellow when ripe. It is relatively small and has an unremarkable flavor and is more known for its medicinal than its culinary uses.
Commercially and in general, there are two types of persimmon fruit: astringent and non-astringent.
The heart-shaped Hachiya is the most common variety of astringent persimmon. Astringent persimmons contain very high levels of soluble tannins and are unpalatably astringent (or "furry" tasting) if eaten before completely softened. However, the sweet, delicate flavor of fully ripened persimmons of varieties that are astringent when unripe, is particularly relished. The astringency of tannins is removed in various ways. Examples include ripening by exposure to light for several days, and wrapping the fruit in paper (probably because this increases the ethylene concentration of the surrounding air). Ethylene ripening can be increased in reliability and evenness, and the process can be greatly accelerated, by adding ethylene gas to the atmosphere in which the fruit are stored. For domestic purposes the most convenient and effective process is to store the ripening persimmons in a clean, dry container together with other varieties of fruit that give off particularly large quantities of ethylene while they are ripening; apples and related fruits such as pears are effective, and so are bananas and several others. Other chemicals are used commercially in artificially ripening persimmons or delaying their ripening. Examples include alcohol and carbon dioxide which change tannin into the insoluble form. Such bletting processes sometimes are jumpstarted by exposing the fruit to cold or frost. The resultant cell damage stimulates the release of ethylene, which promotes cellular wall breakdown.
One traditional misconception is that persimmons are to be ripened till rotten. This is a confusion of the processes of controlled ripening with the processes of decay, possibly arising from problems of translation from Asiatic languages onto English. Rotting is the action of microorganisms such as fungi, and rotting persimmons are no better than any other rotting fruit. Sound persimmons should be ripened till they are fully soft, except that the carpels still might be softly chewy. At that stage the skin might be splitting and the calyx can easily be plucked out of the fruit before serving, which often is a good sign that the soft fruit is ready to eat.
Astringent varieties of persimmons also can be prepared for commercial purposes by drying. Tanenashi fruit will occasionally contain a seed or two, which can be planted and will yield a larger more vertical tree than when merely grafted onto the D. virginiana rootstock most commonly used in the U.S. Such seedling trees may produce fruit that bears more seeds, usually 6 to 8 per fruit, and the fruit itself may vary slightly from the parent tree. Seedlings are said to be more susceptible to root nematodes.
The non-astringent persimmon is squat like a tomato and is most commonly sold as fuyu. Non-astringent persimmons are not actually free of tannins as the term suggests, but rather are far less astringent before ripening, and lose more of their tannic quality sooner. Non-astringent persimmons may be consumed when still very firm, and remain edible when very soft.
There is a third type, less commonly available, the pollination-variant non-astringent persimmons. When fully pollinated, the flesh of these fruit is brown inside—known as goma in Japan—and the fruit can be eaten firm. These varieties are highly sought after and can be found at specialty markets or farmers markets only.][ Tsurunoko, sold as "chocolate persimmon" for its dark brown flesh, Maru, sold as "cinnamon persimmon" for its spicy flavor, and Hyakume, sold as "brown sugar" are the three best known.
Before ripening, persimmons usually have a "chalky" taste or bitter taste.
The table below shows figures of persimmons for the world's top ten persimmon producing countries according to FAO statistics.
Persimmons are eaten fresh, dried, raw, or cooked. When eaten fresh they are usually eaten whole like an apple or cut into quarters, though with some varieties it is best to peel the skin first. One way to consume very ripe persimmons, which can have the texture of pudding, is to remove the top leaf with a paring knife and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Riper persimmons can also be eaten by removing the top leaf, breaking the fruit in half and eating from the inside out. The flesh ranges from firm to mushy, and the texture is unique. The flesh is very sweet and when firm due to being unripe, possesses an apple-like crunch.][ American persimmons and diospyros digyna are completely inedible until they are fully ripe.
In China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam after harvesting, 'Hachiya' persimmons are prepared using traditional hand-drying techniques, outdoors for two to three weeks. The fruit is then further dried by exposure to heat over several days before being shipped to market. In Japan the dried fruit is called hoshigaki (干し柿), in China it is known as "shìbǐng" (柿饼), in Korea it is known as gotgam (hangul: 곶감), and in Vietnam it is called hồng khô. It is eaten as a snack or dessert and used for other culinary purposes.
In Korea, dried persimmon fruits are used to make the traditional Korean spicy punch, sujeonggwa, while the matured, fermented fruit is used to make a persimmon vinegar called gamsikcho (감식초). The hoshigaki tradition traveled to California with Japanese American immigrants.
In Taiwan, fruits of astringent varieties are sealed in jars filled with limewater to get rid of bitterness. Slightly hardened in the process, they are sold under the name "crisp persimmon" (cuishi 脆柿) or "water persimmon" (shuishizi 水柿子). Preparation time is dependent upon temperature (5 to 7 days at . In some areas of Manchuria and Korea, the dried leaves of the fruit are used for making tea. The Korean name for this tea is ghamnip cha (감잎차).
In the state of Indiana (US), persimmons are harvested and used in a variety of dessert dishes most notably pies. It can be used in cookies, cakes, puddings, salads, curries and as a topping for breakfast cereal. Persimmon pudding is a dessert using fresh persimmons. An annual persimmon festival, featuring a persimmon pudding contest, is held every September in Mitchell, Indiana. Persimmon pudding is a baked pudding that has the consistency of pumpkin pie but resembles a brownie and is almost always topped with whipped cream. Persimmons may be stored at room temperature where they will continue to ripen. In northern China, unripe persimmons are frozen outside during winter to speed up the ripening process.
Compared to apples, persimmons have higher levels of dietary fiber, phenolic compounds, sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and manganese, but lower levels of copper and zinc. They are also rich in vitamin C and beta carotene.][ In one study, a diet supplemented with dried, powdered triumph persimmons improved lipid metabolism in laboratory rats.
The fruits of some persimmon varieties contain the tannins catechin and gallocatechin, as well as the candidate anti-tumor compounds betulinic acid and shibuol.
Unripened persimmons contain the soluble tannin shibuol, which, upon contact with a weak acid, polymerizes in the stomach and forms a gluey coagulum, a "foodball" or phytobezoar, that can affix with other stomach matter. These phytobezoars are often very hard and almost woody in consistency. More than 85% of phytobezoars are caused by ingestion of unripened persimmons. Persimmon bezoars (diospyrobezoars) often occur in epidemics in regions where the fruit is grown. Diospyrobezoars should not be of concern when consuming moderate quantities of persimmons. One case in medical literature from 2004 revealed a 51-year old patient who had eaten a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of unpeeled persimmons each day for 40 years. Surgery is sometimes employed, but Coca-Cola has also been successfully used to chemically shrink or eliminate persimmon-related bezoars.
Horses may develop a taste for the fruit growing on a tree in their pasture and overindulge also, making them quite ill. It is often advised that persimmons should not be eaten on an empty stomach.
Though persimmon trees belong to the same genus as ebony trees, persimmon tree wood has a limited use in the manufacture of objects requiring hard wood. It is hard, but cracks easily and is somewhat difficult to process. Persimmon wood is used for paneling in traditional Korean and Japanese furniture.
In North America, the lightly colored, fine-grained wood of D. virginiana is used to manufacture billiard cues and textile shuttles. It is also used in the percussion field to produce the shaft of some mallets and drumsticks. Persimmon wood was also heavily used in making the highest-quality heads of the golf clubs known as "woods" until the golf industry moved primarily to metal woods in the last years of the 20th century. In fact, the first metal woods made by TaylorMade, an early pioneer of that club type, were branded as "Pittsburgh Persimmons". Persimmon woods are still made, but in far lower numbers than in past decades. Over the last few decades persimmon wood has become popular among bow craftsmen, especially in the making of traditional longbows. Persimmon wood is used in making a small number of wooden flutes and eating utensils such as wooden spoons and cornbread knives (wooden knives that may cut through the bread without scarring the dish).
Like some other plants of the genus Diospyros, older persimmon heartwood is black or dark brown in color, in stark contrast to the sapwood and younger heartwood, which is pale in color.
The trees of all species have stiff, tumescent leaves, but the female of the D. virginiana can look less turgid than the male because the leaves droop when fruiting, perhaps because of the heavier nutrient requirements. They grow swiftly, and are resilient to the stresses of unpredictable climates. Persimmons can tolerate and adapt to a wide range of climates. Persimmons are also known for their resistance to diseases and pests. They are one of the last trees to leaf out in the spring, and do not flower until well after the leaves have formed, bypassing the threat of blossom loss to frosts. The fruit hangs on the branches long into the winter. Because they grow swiftly and colonize off their root systems, they are ideal for helping recover habitat. A persimmon tree will be mature enough to bear fruit within 7–8 years. They hold their own against flooding riverbanks quite well and are listed in Stormwater Journal's list of water-holding trees.
Persimmon orchard northern Kansai region, Japan.
Hachiya persimmons in December
Japanese persimmons hung to dry after fall harvest
Their red color and cracking skins show which persimmons are ripe. The yellow fruit are nearly ripe and will ripen, especially if exposed to ethylene.
Comparison of hachiya cultivar and jiro cultivar kaki persimmon size.
Peeled, hanging Hachiya Persimmons in Southern California.
Persimmon cut open.
Japanese persimmon (cultivar 'Hachiya') - watercolor 1887
Kaki fruit (Japanese persimmon)
A branch heavily laden with persimmons
Diospyros mosieri S.F.Blake
Diospyros virginiana is a persimmon species commonly called the American Persimmon, Common Persimmon, Eastern Persimmon, "'Simmon", "Possumwood", or "Sugar-plum". It ranges from southern Connecticut/Long Island to Florida, and west to Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Kansas. The tree grows wild but has been cultivated for its fruit and wood since prehistoric times by Native Americans.
Diospyros virginiana grows through 20 m (66 ft), in well-drained soil. In summer, this species produces fragrant flowers which are dioecious, so one must have both male and female plants to obtain fruit. Most cultivars are parthenocarpic (setting seedless fruit without pollination). The flowers are pollinated by insects and wind. Fruiting typically begins when the tree is about 6 yr old.
The fruit is round or oval and usually orange-yellow and sometimes bluish and from 2 through 6 cm (0.79 through 2.4 in) in diameter. In the U.S. South and Midwest, the fruits are referred to as simply Persimmons or "'Simmons", and are popular in desserts and cuisine.
Commercial varieties include the very productive Early Golden, the productive John Rick, Miller, Woolbright and the Ennis, a seedless variety. Another nickname of the American Persimmon, 'Date-plum' also refers to a persimmon species found in South Asia, Diospyros lotus.
It is a small tree usually 30 through 80 feet (10 through 24 meters) in height, with a short, slender trunk and spreading, often pendulous branches, which form a broad or narrow, round-topped canopy. The roots are thick, fleshy and stoloniferous. This species as has a shrubby growth form. This plant has oval entire leaves, and unisexual flowers on short stalks. In the male flowers, which are numerous, the stamens are sixteen in number and arranged in pairs; the female flowers are solitary, with traces of stamens, and a smooth ovary with one ovule in each of the eight cells—the ovary is surmounted by four styles, which are hairy at the base. The fruit-stalk is very short, bearing a subglobose fruit an inch in diameter or a bit larger, of an orange-yellow color, ranging to bluish, and with a sweetish astringent pulp. It is surrounded at the base by the persistent calyx-lobes, which increase in size as the fruit ripens. The astringency renders the fruit somewhat unpalatable, but after it has been subjected to the action of frost, or has become partially rotted or "bletted" like a medlar, its flavor is improved.
The tree is very common in the South Atlantic and Gulf states, and attains its largest size in the basin of the Mississippi River. Its habitat is southern, it appears along the coast from New York to Florida; west of the Alleghenies it is found in southern Ohio and along through southeastern Iowa and southern Missouri; when it reaches Louisiana, eastern Kansas and Oklahoma it becomes a mighty tree, one hundred fifteen feet high.
Its fossil remains have been found in Miocene rocks of Greenland and Alaska and in Cretaceous formations in Nebraska.
D. virginiana is believed to be an evolutionary remnant of the megafauna that roamed the North American continent until 10,000 years ago and would have eaten the fruit, assisting in its dispersal. However, as it is attractive to raccoons, rodents, and smaller animals, the loss of large grazing herbivores and omnivores in historical times has not seriously affected the tree's survival strategy as compared to Kentucky Coffeetree and Osage Orange which are inedible to most extant wildlife and saw their ranges greatly diminish without mastodons and other dispersal agent fauna.][
The peculiar characteristics of its fruit have made the tree well known. This fruit is a globular berry, with variation in the number of seeds, sometimes with eight and sometimes without any. It bears at its apex the remnants of the styles and sits in the enlarged and persistent calyx. It ripens in late autumn, is pale orange with a red cheek, often covered with a slight glaucous bloom. One joke among Southerners is to induce strangers to taste unripe persimmon fruit, as its very astringent bitterness is shocking to those unfamiliar with it.][ Folklore states that frost is required to make it edible, but fully ripened fruit lightly shaken from the tree or found on the ground below the tree is sweet, juicy and delicious. The peculiar astringency of the fruit is due to the presence of a tannin similar to that of Cinchona. The seeds were used as buttons during the American Civil War.
The fruit is high in vitamin C. The unripe fruit is extremely astringent. The ripe fruit may be eaten raw, cooked or dried. Molasses can be made from the fruit pulp. A tea can be made from the leaves and the roasted seed is used as a coffee substitute. Other popular uses include desserts such as persimmon pie, persimmon pudding, or persimmon candy.
The fruit is also fermented with hops, cornmeal or wheat bran into a sort of beer or made into brandy. The wood is heavy, strong and very close-grained and used in woodturning.
The tree prefers light, sandy, well-drained soil, but will grow in rich, southern, bottom lands. It can be grown in northern Ohio only with the greatest of care, and in southern Ohio its fruit is never edible until after frost.
The tree is greatly inclined to vary in the character and quality of its fruit, in size this varies from that of a small cherry to a small apple. Some trees in the south produce fruit that is delicious without the action of the frost, while adjoining trees produce fruit that never becomes edible.
It was brought to England before 1629 and is cultivated, but rarely if ever ripens its fruit. It is easily raised from seed and can also be propagated from stolons, which are often produced in great quantity. The tree is hardy in the south of England and in the Channel Islands.
In respect to the power of making heartwood, the locust and persimmon stand at the extreme opposite ends of the list. The locust changes its sapwood into heartwood almost at once, while the persimmon rarely develops any heartwood until it is nearly one hundred years old. This heartwood is extremely close-grained and almost black, resembling ebony (of which it is not a true variety).
It is a common misconception persimmon fruit needs frost to ripen and soften. Some, such as the early-ripening varieties "pieper" and "NC21"(also known as "supersweet"), easily lose astringency and become completely free of it when slightly soft at the touch—these are then very sweet, even in the British climate. On the other hand, some varieties (like the very large fruited "yates", which is a late ripening variety) remain astringent even when the fruit has become completely soft (at least in the British climate). Frost, however, destroys the cells within the fruit, causing it to rot instead of ripen. Only completely ripe and soft fruit can stand some frost; it will then dry and become even sweeter (hence the misconception). The same goes for the oriental persimmon (Diospyros kaki), where early frost can severely damage a fruit crop.
In zoology, a graminivore (not to be confused with a granivore) is an herbivorous animal that feeds primarily on grass (specifically "true" grasses; plants of the family Poaceae). The word is derived from Latin graminis, meaning "grass", and vorare, meaning "to eat." Graminivory is a form of grazing.
Horses, cattle, capybara, hippopotamuses, grasshoppers, geese, and giant pandas would be examples of graminivores. Some carnivores, such as dogs and cats, are known to eat grass occasionally.
Red kangaroo eating grass
Horses also eat grass
A capybara grazing at Hattiesburg Zoo
Conception dreams are dreams that are said to foretell the conception or birth of a child, dreamt by the future mother or people close to her. The belief that a dream will foretell a baby's birth originates from China, and is found in some East Asian countries.
In Korea conception dreams are known as 태몽(taemong). Many women in Korean culture report having such dreams themselves. Popular topics of the dreams include fruit (such apples, persimmons, cherries, chestnuts), animals (tigers, snakes, goldfish), nature (rivers, rainbows), children and jewels. The dreamer might eat or take fruits, embrace animals, or interact with nature. The topic is believed to influence the gender or the future of the baby; for example, fruits are seen as a sign for a baby girl.
The person having the dream can be the mother herself, but close family members such as her mother or the husband can also have conception dreams instead of the mother.
Dreams are often considered to be omens, and sometimes people will "buy" dreams from friends, if they feel it is a good omen or a good conception dream.
Accounts of conception dreams can be found in numerous old histories. One example is the conception dream of Kim Yushin, from the 6th century CE, documented in the Samguk Sagi.
Myrmecophagy is a feeding behavior defined by the consumption of termites or ants, particularly as pertaining to those animal species whose diets are largely or exclusively composed of said insect types. Literally, myrmecophagy means "ant eating" (Ancient Greek: murmēkos, "ants" and phagein, "to eat") rather than "termite eating" (for which the strict term is termitophagy). However, the two habits often overlap, as both of these eusocial insect types often live in large, densely populated nests requiring similar adaptations in the animal species that exploit them.
Myrmecophagy is found in a number of land-dwelling vertebrate taxa, including reptiles and amphibians (horned lizards and blind snakes, narrow-mouthed toads of the family Microhylidae and posion frogs of the Dendrobatidae), and several mammalian groups (anteaters, aardvarks, aardwolves, pangolins, sloth bears, and many armadillos, numbats and echidnas, for instance).
Otherwise unrelated mammals that specialize in myrmecophagy often display similar adaptations for this niche. Many have powerful forelimbs and claws adapted to excavating the nests of ant or termite colonies from the earth or from wood or under bark. Most have reduced teeth and some have reduced jaws as well. Practically all have long, sticky tongues. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century many zoologists saw these shared features as evidence of relatedness, and accordingly they regarded the various species as single order of Mammalia, the Edentata. However it quite early became clear that such a classification was hard to sustain, and there was a growing trend to see the features as examples of convergent evolution. For example, at the start of the 20th century Frank Evers Beddard, writing in The Cambridge Natural History, Vol 10, Mammalia, having discussed some discrepant features, said: "The fact is, that we have here a polymorphic order which contains in all probability representatives of at least two separate orders. We have at present a very few, and these perhaps highly modified, descendants of a large and diverse group of mammals."
Generally speaking, ants are little fed upon because they tend to be dangerous, small, and rich in harmful compounds, so much so that ant mimicry is a common strategy of defence among invertebrates. However, ants also are plentiful, so members of several invertebrate taxa do feed on ants. Such ant predators include some spiders, such as species in the family Salticidae (jumping spiders), and spiders in the family Oecobiidae. Some spiders, including some myrmecomorphs (ant mimics) and myrmecophiles even specialise in ants as prey. Myrmecomorphs are Batesian mimics. They gain protection against predators, and abundant food.
Various species of the Hemipteran suborder Heteroptera, in the family Reduviidae feed largely or exclusively on ants. Examples include the genera Paredocla and Acanthaspis
Some insects that feed on ants do so because they are opportunistic predators of small insects that run on the ground surface, of which ants are a large proportion. Remarkable examples of convergent evolution are certain species of the Neuropteran family Myrmeleontidae, largely Myrmeleon, the so called ant lions, and the Dipteran family Vermileonidae, in particular the genera Lampromyia and Vermilio, the so-called worm lions. Both of them are regarded with interest for their habit of constructing conical pit traps in fine sand or dust, at the bottom of which they await prey that has fallen in. Both throw sand to interfere with any attempts on the part of the prey to escape.
Myrmecophagy takes more forms than just eating adult ants; the later instars of caterpillars of many butterflies in the family Lycaenidae enter the nests of particular species of ants and eat the ants' eggs and larvae. Larvae of some species of flies, such as the genus Microdon in the family Syrphidae spend their entire immature lives in the nests of ants, feeding largely or entirely on the ant brood. Some beetles specialise in feeding on the brood of particular species of ants. An example is the coccinellid Diomus; larvae of Diomus thoracicus in French Guiana specialise in the nests of the invasive ant species Wasmannia auropunctata.
Fungivory or mycophagy is the process of organisms consuming fungi. Many different organisms have been recorded to gain their energy from consuming fungi, including birds, mammals, insects, plants, amoeba, gastropods, nematodes and bacteria. Some of these, which only eat fungi are called fungivores whereas others eat fungi as only part of their diet, being omnivores.
Many mammals eat fungi, but only a few feed exclusively on fungi, most are opportunistic feeders and fungi only make up part of their diet. At least 22 species of primate, including bonobos, colobines, gorillas, lemurs, macaques, mangabeys, marmosets and vervet monkeys are known to feed on fungi. Most of these species spend less than 5% of the time they spend feeding, eating fungi and they therefore form only a small part of their diet. Some species spend longer foraging for fungi and they account for a greater part of their diet; buffy-tufted marmosets spend up to 12% of their time consuming sporocarps, Goeldi’s monkeys spend up to 63% of their time doing so and the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey spends up to 95% of its feeding time eating lichens. Fungi are comparatively very rare in tropical rainforests compared to other food sources such as fruit and leaves and they are also distributed more sparsely and appear unpredictably, making them a challenging source of food for Goeldi’s monkeys.
Fungi are renowned for their poisons to deter animals from feeding on them: even today humans die from eating poisonous fungi. A natural consequence of this is the virtual absence of obligate vertebrate fungivores. One of the few extant vertebrate fungivores is the northern flying squirrel, but it is believed that in the past there were numerous vertebrate fungivores and that toxin development greatly lessened their number and forced these species to abandon fungi or diversify. Although some monkeys still eat fungi today, there are no completely fungivorous primates, though their dentition is very suitable for eating fungi.
Many terrestrial gastropod mollusks are known to feed on fungi. It is the case in several species of slugs from distinct families. Among them are the Philomycidae (e. g. Philomycus carolinianus and Phylomicus flexuolaris) and Ariolimacidae (Ariolimax californianus), which respectively feed on slime molds (myxomycetes) and mushrooms (basidiomycetes). Species of mushroom producing fungi used as food source by slugs include milk-caps, Lactarius spp., the oyster mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus and the penny bun, Boletus edulis. Other species pertaining to different genera, such as Agaricus, Pleurocybella and Russula, are also eaten by slugs. Slime molds used as food source by slugs include Stemonitis axifera and Symphytocarpus flaccidus. Some slugs are selective towards certain parts or developmental stages of the fungi they eat, though this behavior varies greatly. Depending on the species and other factors, slugs eat only fungi at specific stages of development. Moreover, in other cases, whole mushrooms can be eaten, without any trace of selectivity.
In 2008, Euprenolepis procera a species of ant from the rainforests of South East Asia was found to harvest mushrooms from the rainforest. Witte & Maschwitz found that their diet consisted almost entirely of mushrooms, representing a previously undiscovered feeding strategy in ants.
Jays (Perisoreus) are believed to be the first birds in which mycophagy was recorded. Canada jays (P. canadensis), Siberian jays (P. infaustus) and Oregon jays (P. obscurus) have all been recorded to eat mushrooms, with the stomachs of Siberian jays containing mostly fungi in the early winter. The ascomycete, Phaeangium lefebvrei found in north Africa and the Middle East is eaten by migrating birds in winter and early spring, mainly be species of lark (Alaudidae). Bedouin hunters have been reported to use P. lefebvrei as bait in traps to attract birds.
Fungi are known to form an important part of the diet of the southern cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) of Australia. Bracket fungi have been found in their droppings throughout the year, and Simpson in the Australasian Mycological Newsletter suggested it is likely they also eat species of Agaricales and Pezizales but these have not been found in their droppings since they disintegrate when they are eaten. Emus (Dromaius novaehollandiae) will eat immature Lycoperdon and Bovista fungi if presented to them as will brush turkeys (Alectura lathami) if offered Mycena, suggesting that species of Megapodiidae may feed opportunistically on mushrooms.
Mycoparasitism occurs when any fungus feeds on other fungi, a form of parasitism, our knowledge of it in natural environments is very limited. Collybia grow on dead mushrooms.
The fungal genus, Trichoderma produces enzymes such as chitinases which degrade the cell walls of other fungi. They are able to detect other fungi and grow towards them, they then bind to the hyphae of other fungi using lectins on the host fungi as a receptor, forming an appressorium. Once this is formed, Trichoderma inject toxic enzymes into the host and probably peptaibol antibiotics, which create holes in the cell wall, allowing Trichoderma to grow inside of the host and feed. Trichoderma are able to digest sclerotia, durable structures which contain food reserves, which is important if they are to control pathogenic fungi in the long term. Trichoderma species have been recorded as protecting crops from Botrytis cinerea, Rhizoctonia solani, Alternaria solani, Glomerella graminicola, Phytophthora capsici, Magnaporthe grisea and Colletotrichum lindemuthianum; although this protection may not be entirely due to Trichoderma digesting these fungi, but by them improving plant disease resistance indirectly.
Bacterial mycophagy was a term coined in 2005, to describe the ability of some bacteria to "grow at the expense of living fungal hyphae". In a 2007 review in the New Phytologist this definition was adapted to only include bacteria which play an active role in gaining nutrition from fungi, excluding those that feed off passive secretions by fungi, or off dead or damaged hyphae. The majority of our knowledge in this area relates to interactions between bacteria and fungi in the soil and in or around plants, little is known about interactions in marine and freshwater habitats, or those occurring on or inside animals. It is not known what affects bacterial mycophagy has on the fungal communities in nature.
There are three mechanisms by which bacteria feed on fungi; they either kill fungal cells, cause them to secrete more material out of their cells or enter into the cells to feed internally and they are categorised according to these habits. Those that kill fungal cells are called nectrotrophs, the molecular mechanisms of this feeding are thought to overlap considerably with bacteria that feed on fungi after they have died naturally. Necrotrophs may kill the fungi through digesting their cell wall or by producing toxins which kill fungi, such as tolaasin produced by Pseudomonas tolaasii. Both of these mechanisms may be required since fungal cell walls are highly complex, so require many different enzymes to degarde them, and because experiments demonstrate that bacteria that produce toxins cannot always infect fungi. It is likely that these two systems act synergistically, with the toxins killing or inhibiting the fungi and exoenzymes degrading the cell wall and digesting the fungus. Examples of necrotrophs include Staphylococcus aureus which feed on Cryptococcus neoformans, Aeromonas caviae which feed on Rhizoctonia solani, Sclerotium rolfsii and Fusarium oxysporum, and some myxobacteria which feed on Cochliobolus miyabeanus and Rhizoctonia solani.
Bacteria which manipulate fungi to produce more secretions which they in turn feed off are called extracellular biotrophs; many bacteria feed on fungal secretions, but do not interact directly with the fungi and these are called saprotrophs, rather than biotrophs. Extracellular biotrophs could alter fungal physiology in three ways; they alter their development, the permeability of their membranes (including the efflux of nutrients) and their metabolism. The precise signalling molecules that are used to achieve these changes are unknown, but it has been suggested that auxins (better known for their role as a plant hormone) and quorum sensing molecules may be involved. Bacteria have been identified that manipulate fungi in these ways, for example mycorhizzal helper bacteria (MHBs) and Pseudomonas putida, but it remains to be demonstrated whether the changes they make are cause are directly beneficial to the bacteria. In the case of MHBs, which increase infection of plant roots by mycorrhizal fungi, they may benefit, because the fungi gain nutrition from the plant and in turn the fungi will secrete more sugars.
The third group, that enter into living fungal cells are called endocellular biotrophs. Some of these are transmitted vertically whereas others are able to actively invade and subvert fungal cells. The molecular interactions involved in these interactions are mostly unknown. Many endocellular biotrophs, for example some Burkholderia species, belong to the β-proteobacteria which also contains species which live inside the cells of mammals and amoeba. Some of them, for example Candidatus Glomeribacter gigasporarum, which colonises the spores of Gigaspora margarita, have reduced genome sizes indicating that they have become entirely dependent on the metabolic functions of the fungal cells in which they live. When all the endocellular bacteria inside G. margarita were removed, the fungus grew differently and was less fit, suggesting that some bacteria may also provide services to the fungi they live in.
The Grossglockneridae family of ciliates, including the species Grossglockneria acuta, feed exclusively on fungi. G. acuta first attaches themselves to a hyphae or sporangium via a feeding tube and then a ring-shaped structure, around 2 μm in diameter is observed to appear on the fungus, possibly consisting of degraded cell wall material. G. acuta then feeds through the hole in the cell wall for, on average, 10 minutes, before detaching itself and moving away. The precise mechanism of feeding is not known, but it conceivably involves enzymes including acid phosphatases, cellulases and chitinases. Microtubules are visible in the feeding tube, as are possible reserves of cell membrane, which may be used to form food vacuoles filled with the cytoplasm of the fungus, via endocytosis, which are then transported back into G. acuta. The holes made by G. acuta bear some similarities to those made by amoeba, but unlike amoeba G. acuta never engulfs the fungus.
Around 90% of land plants live in symbiosis with mycorrhizal fungi, where fungi gain sugars from plants and plants gain nutrients from the soil via the fungi. Some species of plant have evolved to manipulate this symbiosis, so that they no longer give fungi sugars that they produce and instead gain sugars from the fungi, a process called myco-heterotrophy. Some plants are only dependent on fungi as a source of sugars during the early stages of their development, these include most of the orchids as well as many ferns and lycopods. Others are dependent on this food source for their entire lifetime, including some orchids and Gentianaceae, and all species of Monotropaceae and Triuridaceae. Those that are dependent on fungi, but still photosynthesise are called mixotrophs since they gain nutrition in more than one way, by gaining a significant amount of sugars from fungi, they are able to grow in the deep shade of forests. Examples include the orchids Epipactis, Cephalanthera and Plantanthera and the Pyroleae tribe of the Ericaceae family. Others, such as Monotropastrum humile, no longer photosynthesise and are totally dependent on fungi for nutrients. Around 230 such species exist, and this trait is thought to have evolved independently on five occasions outside of the orchid family. Some individuals of the orchid species Cephalanthera damasonium are mixotrophs, but others do not photosynthesise. Because the fungi that myco-heterotrophic plants gain sugars from in turn gain them from plants that do photosynthesise, they are considered indirect parasites of other plants. The relationship between orchids and orchid mycorrhizae has been suggested to be somewhere between predation and parasitism.
The precise mechanisms by which these plants gain sugars from fungi are not known and has not been demonstrated scientifically. Two pathways have been proposed; they may either degrade fungal biomass, particularly the fungal hyphae which penetrate plant cells in a similar manner to in arbuscular mycorrhizae, or absorb sugars from the fungi by disrupting their cell membranes, through mass flow. To prevent the sugars returning to the fungi, they must compartmentalise the sugars or convert them into forms which the fungi cannot use.
Three insect lineages, the beetles, ants and termites, independently evolved the ability to farm fungi between 40 and 60 million years ago. In a similar way to the way that human societies became more complex after the development of plant-based agriculture, the same occurred in these insect lineages when they evolved this ability and these insects are now of major importance in ecosystems. The methods that insects use to farm fungi insects share fundamental similarities with human agriculture. Firstly, insects inoculate a particular habitat or substrate with fungi, much in the same as humans plant seeds in fields. Secondly, they cultivate the fungi by regulating the growing environment to try and improve the growth of the fungus, as well as protecting it from pests and diseases. Thirdly they harvest the fungus when it is mature and feed on it. Lastly they are dependent on the fungi they grow, in the same way that humans are dependent on crops.
Ambrosia beetles, for example Austroplatypus incompertus, farm ambrosia fungi inside of trees and feed on them. The mycangia (organs which carry fungal spores) of ambrosia beetles contain various species of fungus, including species of Ambrosiomyces, Ambrosiella, Ascoidea, Ceratocystis, Dipodascus, Diplodia, Endomycopsis, Monacrosporium and Tuberculariella. The ambrosia fungi are only found in the beetles and their galleries, suggesting that they and the beetles have an obligate symbiosis.
Around 330 species of termites in twelve genera of the subfamily Macrotermitinae cultivate a specialised fungus in the Termitomyces genus. The fungus is kept in a specialised part of the nest in fungus cones. Worker termites eat plant matter, producing faecal pellets which they continuously place on top of the cone. The fungus grows into this material and soon produces immature mushrooms, a rich source of protein, sugars and enzymes, which the worker termites eat. The nodules also contain indigestible asexual spores, meaning that the faecal pellets produced by the workers always contain spores of the fungus that colonise the plant material that they defaecate. The Termitomyces also fruits, forming mushrooms above ground, which mature at the same time that the first workers emerge from newly formed nests. The mushrooms produce spores that are wind dispersed, and through this method, new colonies acquire a fungal strain. In some species, the genetic variation of the fungus is very low, suggesting that spores of the fungus are transmitted vertically from nest to nest, rather than from wind dispersed spores.
Around 220 described species, and more undescribed species of ants in the tribe Attini cultivate fungi. They are only found in the New World and are thought to have evolved in the Amazon Rainforest, where they are most diverse today. For these ants, farmed fungi are the only source of food on which their larvae are raised on and are also an important food for adults. Queen ants carry a small part of fungus in small pouches in their mouthparts when they leave the nest to mate, allowing them to establish a new fungus garden when they form a new nest. Different lineages cultivate fungi on different substrates, those that evolved earlier do so on a wide range of plant matter, whereas leaf cutter ants are more selective, mainly using only fresh leaves and flowers. The fungi are members of the Lepiotaceae and Pterulaceae families. Other fungi in the Escovopsis genus parasitise the gardens and antibiotic-producing bacteria also inhabit the gardens.
The marine snail Littoraria irrorata, which lives in the salt marshes of the southeast of the United States feeds on fungi that it encourages to grow. It creates and maintains wounds on the grass, Spartina alterniflora which are then infected by fungi, probably of the Phaeosphaeria and Mycosphaerella genera, which are the preferred diet of the snail. They also deposit faeces on the wounds that they create, which encourage the growth of the fungi because they are rich in nitrogen and fungal hyphae. Juvenile snails raised on uninfected leaves do not grow and are more likely to die, indicating the importance of the fungi in the diet of L. irrorata.
Food and drink
An omnivore, meaning 'all-eater' (Latin omni, vorare: "all, everything", "to devour"), or polyphage ("many eater") species is a consumer of a variety of material as significant food sources in their natural diet. These foods may include plants, animals, algae and fungi.
Omnivores often are opportunistic, general feeders with neither carnivore nor herbivore specializations for acquiring or processing food, and are capable of consuming and do consume both animal protein and vegetation. Many omnivores depend on a suitable mix of animal and plant food for long-term good health and reproduction.][
Omnivore, omnivory and similar derivations are terms of convenience; their significance varies according to context and to both kind and degree. Non-fuzzy definition therefore is neither possible nor necessary. Traditionally the definition for omnivory is some variation of the form: "including both animal and vegetable tissue in the diet", which seems clear enough for most purposes. However, it is neither absolute nor yet precise, either exclusively or inclusively. It is in fact meaningful only in limited senses, either taxonomically or ecologically. Because most herbivores and omnivores eat only a small range of types of plant food one seldom has reason to refer to an omnivorous pig scavenging for fruit and carrion, and digging for roots and small animals, as being in the same category as an omnivorous chameleon that eats leaves as well as insects; apart from their taxonomic differences the two have little ecological or dietary overlap.
The term "omnivory" also is not comprehensive because it does not deal with questions of mineral food such as salt licks, or the question of eating life forms that are not included in the kingdoms Animalia and Plantae. As for appeals to etymological points such as that "omnivore" means "eater of everything", no biologist or philologist would take them seriously.
One might be tempted to impose a taxonomic definition, irrespective of actual diet, appealing to the Carnivora as a taxon in which, in spite of their being Carnivora, most species in the order eat at least some vegetable matter. However, there are no corresponding taxa called "Omnivora" or "Herbivora", and even if there were, zoologists would not claim either that all Carnivora are carnivores, or that all carnivores are Carnivora. Taxonomically in fact, there probably are fewer than three hundred species of Carnivora, whereas there are more than that number of species specialising in animal food among the Chiroptera alone.
Concerning the phenomena to which terms such as "omnivore" might apply, very few carnivores and herbivores in the normal senses are strictly limited to just one type of tissue in the diet. Even felids and mustelids, animals normally seen as specialist carnivores, often eat a little vegetable matter for various reasons, such as when they eat the guts of prey. Examples of animals that come closest to rigid specialisation in carnivory or herbivory respectively, are the likes of parasitoidal insects or insects that are specialist sap-suckers. Naturally biologists take no interest in quibbling about whether, or how strictly, to classify a ruminant as an omnivore on the grounds that a cow might swallow insects on the grass it eats, or even that it may eat old bones as mineral supplements. Nor is it rewarding to argue whether to call an animal an omnivore because it eats mainly animal food at one stage of its life, and plant matter at another, even though many diverse animals do so and in many different ways. Some species of grazing waterfowl, such as geese, are well-known examples. So are many insects such as beetles in the family Meloidae, that begin by eating animal food as larvae, but change to plant food when they mature. Many mosquitoes begin with plant food or assorted detritus, but when they are mature the two genders adopt different diets if they eat at all; the males mainly eat nectar and other plant juices, whereas many species of females in genera such as Anopheles, Aedes and Culex, though they similarly eat nectar, also must suck blood if they are to reproduce effectively. Other species, such as the genus Toxorhynchites on the contrary, are predatory carnivores when in the larval stage, but grow up into nectar-eating adults of both genders. Concerning omnivory, one terminology might validly be most convenient in some contexts, but not in others.
In summary "omnivory" is a general term of convenience in many contexts and takes many forms in biology, but as a general term it intrinsically is both non-specific and ambiguous; wherever it is necessary to refer to a particular type of omnivory, one must begin by specifying what version one has in mind and how it is defined. To some extent the same applies to logically related terms for dietary behaviour, such as herbivory and carnivory.
Although cases exist of carnivores eating plant matter, as well as of herbivores eating meat, the classification "omnivore" refers to the adaptations and main food source of the species in general, so these exceptions do not make either individual animals nor the species as a whole omnivorous. In order for the concept of "omnivore" to be regarded as a scientific classification, some clear set of measurable and relevant criteria would need to be considered to differentiate between an "omnivore" and the other vague but less ambiguous diet categories e.g., faunivore, folivore, scavenger, etc. Some researchers argue that evolution of any species from herbivory to carnivory or carnivory to herbivory would be rare except via an intermediate stage of omnivory.
Various mammals are omnivorous in the wild, such as the Hominidae, pigs, badgers, bears, coatis, hedgehogs, opossums, skunks, sloths, squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks, mice, and rats. Various birds are omnivorous, with diets varying from berries and nectar to insects, worms, fish, and small rodents. Examples include cassowarys, chickens, crows and related corvids, keas, rallidae, and rheas. In addition, some lizards, turtles, fish, such as piranhas and catfish, and invertebrates are also omnivorous.
Most bear species are omnivores, but individual diets can range from almost exclusively herbivorous to almost exclusively carnivorous, depending on what food sources are available locally and seasonally. Polar bears are classified as carnivores, both taxonomically (they are in the order Carnivora), and behaviorally (they subsist on a largely carnivorous diet). Wolf subspecies (including wolves, dogs, dingoes, and coyotes) can live on such vegetable material as grain and fruit products indefinitely but clearly prefer meat. Depending on the species of bear, there is generally a preference for one class of food, as plants and animals are digested differently.
While most mammals may display "omnivorous" behavior patterns depending on conditions of supply, culture, season and so on, they will generally prefer one class of food or another, and when their digestive processes are adapted to a particular class, their long-term preferences will reflect such adaptations. Like most arboreal species, most squirrels are primarily granivores, subsisting on nuts and seeds. But as with virtually all mammals, squirrels avidly consume some animal food when it becomes available. For example, the American Eastern gray squirrel has spread to parts of Europe, Britain and South Africa. Where it flourishes, its effect on populations of nesting birds is often serious, largely because of consumption of eggs and nestlings.
Quite commonly, predominantly herbivorous organisms will eagerly eat small quantities of animal food when it happens to become available. Although this is a trivial matter most of the time, omnivorous or herbivorous birds, such as sparrows, often will feed their chicks animal food (largely insects) as far as possible while the need for growth is most urgent. On close inspection it appears that nectar-feeding birds such as sunbirds rely on the ants and other insects that they find in flowers, not for a richer supply of protein, but for essential nutrients such as Cyanocobalamin that are essentially absent from nectar. Similarly monkeys of many species eat maggoty fruit, sometimes in clear preference to sound fruit. When to refer to such animals as omnivorous or otherwise becomes a question of context and emphasis rather than of definition.