MAR 23, 2015 04:53 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
NOV 21, 2018
Cannabis Sciences
NOV 21, 2018
Intro to Phytocannabinoids
With the surge in public interest in marijuana due to state-by-state marijuana legislature reform have come two new chemical substances that have entered p...
DEC 04, 2018
Plants & Animals
DEC 04, 2018
Will Reduced Protected Lands in Utah Impact Local Bee Biodiversity?
Many American states have nicknames that subtly describe their unique qualities; Utah, for example, is known as the beehive state. But that origin of that...
JAN 08, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
JAN 08, 2019
A Genetic Recipe for Monogamy
Is it natural to remain committed to a mate for life? Researchers at the University of Texas Austin have used genetics to learn more about monogamy....
JAN 09, 2019
Plants & Animals
JAN 09, 2019
Study Analyzes Elephant Movement Patterns Relative to Resource Availability
The world and its many landscapes are continuously changing, so it should come as no surprise that wild animals follow suit in order to adjust to the dynam...
JAN 15, 2019
Plants & Animals
JAN 15, 2019
Here's Why We Need to Protect Coral Reefs
Coral reefs do all sorts of great things for the environment. Not only do they act as underwater fortresses for smaller wildlife that require shelter from...
JAN 21, 2019
Plants & Animals
JAN 21, 2019
A Small Snake Eaten by a Larger Snake Turned Out to be a New Species
More than four decades ago, curious researchers carefully analyzed the stomach contents of a Central American coral snake that had been captured in Chiapas...
Loading Comments...