Shaggy manes and common inky caps belong to a group of mushrooms that have an unusual method of distributing their spores. Members of the group digest their own cap. The gills are located on the undersurface of the cap and bear the reproductive spores. As autodigestion takes place, the cap and gills change into a black, gooey liquid. The spores aren’t digested, however. They are released in the liquid and exposed to air currents, enabling them to be carried to new areas.
All of the mushrooms that produce a black liquid as they mature are referred to as inky caps. Some species are collected for food, although people are careful to eat the mushrooms before they turn to goo. A few species contain a chemical called coprine, which greatly increases the unpleasant effects of alcohol ingestion. Coprine produces similar effects to disulfiram (trade name Antabuse), a medication given to alcoholics to increase their sensitivity to alcohol and encourage abstinence.
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