MAR 23, 2015 4:53 AM PDT

Glowing 'shrooms?

About 2,300 years ago, the Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle noticed what he called a "cold fire" emanating from decaying wood in a forest. That may have been the first documented observation of bioluminescence in mushrooms, a phenomenon that's been observed over the years in 71 different species of the fungi.

The chemical process by which mushrooms generate light is still mysterious, but for years, scientists have puzzled over something else as well. Why do some mushrooms glow? What advantage does it provide to them?
It's a little known fact that some common mushrooms glow in the dark. These bitter oyster mushrooms (Panellus stipticus) are bioluminescent.
A just-published study by U.S. and Brazilian researchers in the journal Current Biology finally provides a good answer. Basically, these mushrooms turn themselves into a natural version of the neon sign in the local bar and grill, in order to attract insect visitors --beetles, flies, wasps and ants -- who will spread the fungal spores around and further the species' effort to reproduce and survive.

"It appears that fungi make light so they are noticed by insects who can help the fungus colonize new habitats," says Cassius Stevani of Brazil's Instituto de Química-Universidade de São Paulo.

Additionally, the researchers found that mushrooms don't just give off light indiscriminately. Instead, their bioluminescence is controlled by a temperature-controlled circadian clock, which enables them to conserve energy by only turning on when it is dark enough for insects to spot them.

(Source: Discovery News)
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
AUG 13, 2020
Plants & Animals
A Mutation May Have Helped Howler Monkeys Survive Yellow Fever
AUG 13, 2020
A Mutation May Have Helped Howler Monkeys Survive Yellow Fever
In 2007, an outbreak of yellow fever devastated the howler monkey population of El Parque El Piñalito. A genetic mutatio ...
SEP 24, 2020
Plants & Animals
High Arctic Polar Bears are Temporarily Benefitting from Climate Change
SEP 24, 2020
High Arctic Polar Bears are Temporarily Benefitting from Climate Change
For the past few decades, polar bears have been harbingers of climate change. However, not every polar bear subpopu ...
OCT 06, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
How a Carnivorous Plant Creates a 'Memory'
OCT 06, 2020
How a Carnivorous Plant Creates a 'Memory'
The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is a famous carnivorous plant that can capture and consume insects and even small ...
OCT 25, 2020
Neuroscience
Chimps Shift to Reciprocated Friendships with Age
OCT 25, 2020
Chimps Shift to Reciprocated Friendships with Age
Image: Pixabay   Researchers studying aging male chimpanzee relationships have gathered evidence that chimps narrow ...
NOV 04, 2020
Plants & Animals
Scientists Rediscover "Lost" Chameleon Species in Madagascar
NOV 04, 2020
Scientists Rediscover "Lost" Chameleon Species in Madagascar
Voeltzkow’s chameleon was recently rediscovered after disappearing for more than 100 years. According to an articl ...
NOV 18, 2020
Health & Medicine
Rising Temperatures May Increase Tick-Borne Diseases in Humans
NOV 18, 2020
Rising Temperatures May Increase Tick-Borne Diseases in Humans
New research presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene warns that climate ...
Loading Comments...