Two common birds in Patagonia regularly consume truffles, study finds 

Two common birds in Patagonia regularly consume truffles, study finds 
Two common birds in Patagonia regularly consume truffles, study finds 

It's one of the most luxurious ingredients in the world, and now it seems that it's not just humans who like truffles - birds do too.

Researchers from the University of Florida found that two common ground-dwelling bird species in Patagonia regularly consume truffles, before passing on the spores in their faeces.

Aside from making it easier for us to source the delicious ingredient, the spreading of truffle spores is also an important part of a healthy forest ecosystem, according to the researchers.

Many tree species have a symbiotic relationship with truffles, which colonise the roots of the trees.

In the study, the researchers spotted chucao tapaculos and black-throated huet-huets (pictured) seeking out and consuming truffles in Patagonia

In the study, the researchers spotted chucao tapaculos and black-throated huet-huets (pictured) seeking out and consuming truffles in Patagonia

Why is the spreading of spores important? 

Aside from making it easier for us to source the delicious ingredient, the spreading of truffle spores is also an important part of a healthy forest ecosystem, according to the researchers.

Many tree species have a symbiotic relationship with truffles, which colonise the roots of the trees.

 Mr Caiafa explained: 'These fungi form mycorrhizas, a relationship whereby the fungus helps the plant take up nutrients in exchange for sugars from the plant.'

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Most of us think of truffles as luxury ingredients, which can cost up to £2,900 per kilo (for rare Italian whit truffles.)

However, there are actually hundreds of different species, according to the team.

Dr Matthew Smith, senior author of the study, said: 'Truffles are essentially mushrooms that grow underground. Unlike above ground mushrooms, which release their spores into the air, truffles depend on animals consuming them to spread their spores.

'Previously, it was assumed that only mammals consumed and dispersed truffle spores, so our study is the first to document birds doing this as well.'

In the study, the researchers spotted chucao tapaculos and black-throated huet-huets seeking out and consuming truffles in Patagonia.

'The questions about birds and truffles emerged during an earlier research project in Patagonia,' Dr Smith said. 

'We are working in the forest, raking the soil and digging up the truffles, and we notice these birds keep following us around and checking out the areas where we had disturbed the soil.

'Then we find truffles with chunks pecked out of them. Marcos even saw a bird eat a truffle right in front of him. All of this led us to ask, are these birds

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