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Mushrooms use perspiration as a tool to stay cool

mushrooms with dew on them.

mushrooms with dew on them.It’s not yet clear why fungi might want to stay cool. However, the discovery sheds light on a potentially fundamental aspect of fungal biology and may even have implications for human health.

It is, to me, a very interesting unexplained phenomenon, said Dr. Arturo Casadevall, a microbiologist at Johns Hopkins University and one of the study authors on the new paper, published last month in PNAS.

Lead author Radamés Cordero, who is also a microbiologist at Johns Hopkins, used an infrared camera to snap pictures of mushrooms in the woods. Infrared cameras can visualize the relative temperatures of each object in a photo, and Cordero noticed something odd: The mushrooms seemed to be colder than their surroundings.

Scientists had previously observed that mushrooms tend to be colder than their environments. But Casadevall said he had never heard of the phenomenon, so the team decided to find out if this cooling effect applied to all fungi.

In addition to photographing wild mushrooms, the researchers grew and photographed different types of fungi in the lab and found the same effect the fungi were colder than their surroundings. This was even the case with their culture of Cryomyces antarcticus, a fungus that grows in Antarctica.

The fungi seem to cool down through evapotranspiration of water from their surface meaning, essentially, they sweat. Think about coming out of the shower, Casadevall told Live Science. When you’re covered in water, you feel cold because some of the water on your skin is evaporating, taking heat with it.

two small white mushrooms on a mossy hill with a blurry dark blue background dotted with white lights

Finding fungi sweat to keep cool could have implications for human health as species start to adapt to warmer global temperatures. (Image credit: Misha Kaminsky/Getty Images)
The team then created a sort of mushroom-powered air conditioner. They put mushrooms Agaricus bisporus, commonly sold in supermarkets as portobello and white mushrooms, among other names into a styrofoam box with a hole on each side. A fan was placed outside one of the holes, and they put this MycoCooler into a larger container and turned the fan on to circulate air over the mushrooms.

After 40 minutes, the air in the larger container had dropped from about 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius) down to about 82 F (27.8 C). The mushrooms had lowered the temperature through evaporative cooling, using up heat in the air to convert liquid water into gas.

The scientists are still unsure why fungi might want to keep cool.

In their paper, the authors speculate that it might have something to do with creating optimal conditions for spore formation, or it may help fungi spread their spores by altering the temperature, they might be causing tiny winds that can blow the spores around.

It’s also possible that this phenomenon is due to something else entirely. For example, evapotranspiration also increases humidity, and when asked if it’s possible that the fungi are trying to keep humid, and the cooling is simply a by-product, Casadevall said it was conceivable.

Understanding the reason behind this cooling phenomenon in mushrooms and other fungi could help us understand how fungi interact with their environment and other organisms ourselves included. Fungal diseases are estimated to kill more than 1.5 million people per year, many of them immunocompromised people.

At the moment, however, people also have some protection from fungal infections as we’re warm-blooded, and fungi don’t grow very well at our body temperature, Casadevall said.

But with climate change, fungi could start to adapt to warmer temperatures potentially enabling them to more easily infect humans. If we understand why a fungus might prefer cooler temperatures, it might be able to help us inhibit fungal infections, Casadevall said.

But so far, this new discovery likely poses more questions than answers. I think that if we could understand why why do they want to be a bit colder than the environment?, we’re going to learn a lot. Casadevall said.

Originally published on Livescience

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Mushroom Coffins

mushroom coffin

DUTCH STARTUP LOOP runs a factory in the city of Delft that’s unlike any other you may have visited. For one thing, as soon as you enter, the scent of mushrooms fills your nostrils like the smell of a forest after rain. If you follow your nose, you’ll arrive at a damp former vehicle repair workshop, filled with industrial-size fridges, heaters, fans, and two greenhouses. White lab coats and glassware are dotted around, and in one corner sit 25 yellowish-white caskets the color of a poorly maintained incisor, racked up and ready to go. Each is around the size and width of a fully grown man, and subtly different in color and texture, like Styrofoam with a soft, velvety outer coating. This is the production line for a living box in which to bury dead people.

On any other given work day, there would have been a dozen staff members busily bustling around the place, but the factory was closed on the cold October afternoon I visited, so Loop’s founder, Bob Hendrikx, a 27-year-old with a long, boyish face and wavy dark brown hair, showed me around. “The weather conditions outside make a lot of difference,” Hendrikx says, explaining the manufacturing process. “One degree off and you have a different product.”

Loop is a design company conceived around the simple idea of solving everyday problems by harnessing the unique attributes of living organisms. Its first product, the Living Cocoon, is a funeral casket made from mycelium, the tangle of microscopic filaments that exists underneath a mushroom. If the mushroom is the fruiting body (think apples or oranges), the mycelium is the rest of the tree: roots, branches, and all.

When mushrooms reproduce, they release airborne spores that, when they land on a substrate in a suitable environment, produce cylindrical white filaments known as hyphae. As these grow and branch they create webs of hyphae called mycelium. The mushroom you see above ground is only a tiny part of the organism; the rest extends rootlike below ground, spreading out in every direction. Given time, resources, and optimal conditions, mycelium can become vast. The largest on record, a specimen of Armillaria ostoyae discovered in Oregon in 1998, covers a total of 2,384 acres, making it the largest living organism in the world.

Mycelium is nature’s great recycler. As they feed, hyphae release enzymes that are able to convert organic compounds like wood and leaves, but also human-made pollutants—including ​​pesticides, hydrocarbons, and chlorinated compounds—into soluble nutrients. As such, mycelia have been deployed to clean up oil spills and chemical contaminants. Myco-remediation, as the method is called, has been used by the US military to clear up neurotoxins, and to clean asbestos and Japanese knotweed found in London’s ​​Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park before the 2012 games.

Petri dishes containing colonies of fungus. The ones with black mold are deemed failures.

Photograph: Eriver Hijano
Given the right substrate, such as wood chips, mycelium fibers will digest and bind the material together to form a dense and spongy mass; to the naked eye, it looks like a slimy white rubber. But despite this initially unappealing appearance, many designers, including Hendrikx, have been exploring the potential of mycelium composites as an environmentally friendly building material. Mycelium composites have many advantages. Growing them doesn’t require any external energy, heat, or even light. Once dehydrated, the material becomes lightweight, durable, and hydrophobic. And packing a mix of mycelium and organic matter into a mold and then leaving it to grow makes it possible to form structures such as packaging, furniture, clothing—and even caskets. “It’s like baking a cake,” Hendrikx told me. “The mycelium does all the work.”

My visit came at the busiest time in the designer’s career. Two days after my arrival, Hendrikx was due to present the latest iteration of the Living Cocoon at Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, where he was nominated for two awards, including the 2021 Young Designer award. There was a lot to prepare.

The design world has been embracing mycelium since 2007, when the New York-based company Ecovative first demonstrated home insulation grown with a patented mushroom-based material. Other companies, including Italy-based Mogu and the UK’s Biohm, have also used mycelium as an insulation material. Mycelium composites are being sold as sustainable replacements for uses as diverse as alternative leather and vegan bacon.

“Mycelium is nature’s own recycler, converting both organic compounds and man-made pollutants.”

Its uses in construction have also grown. In 2014, New York design studio The Living built a cluster of circular towers using 10,000 biodegradable blocks made from mycelium and crop waste. In 2017, a group of architects in Southwest India inserted spores into a triangulated timber framework to build the roof of an architectural pavilion. That same year, a group of architects went one step further with the MycoTree, a tree-like structure that was capable of supporting its own weight, demonstrating that mycelium composite materials might even be used to provide a structural framework for buildings.

A Loop worker lines a coffin with live moss. It’s decorative but can also aid decomposition.

Photograph: Eriver Hijano
If we can use mycelium composites to build structures that change how we live on this planet, Hendrikx began to think we could also change how we leave it. Traditional means of disposing of the dead—burial in wood and metal caskets, or cremation—leave an indelible mark on the planet, polluting the soil or the air. A mycelium casket, Hendrikx thought, would in theory allow the dead to enrich the soil, turning polluted cemeteries into flourishing forests.

The Living Cocoon is more than a casket. For Hendrikx, it is the first step in establishing a mutualistic relationship between humanity and nature. Alongside the mycelium caskets, he is working on growing pods that he believes could one day be scaled up for humanity to inhabit. In theory, these rooms, buildings—or eventually, even entire settlements—could be turned into compost after their useful life, returning their nutrients and disappearing without a trace as quickly as they’ve been grown.

“We are missing out on a lot of opportunities by killing intelligent organisms and turning them into a bench. This thousand-year-old species, we turned it into a piece of wood; that’s what we’re good at,” Hendrikx told me as we packed a fully grown Living Cocoon into the back of his van. “Nature has been here for billions of years, and we have been here for just a few thousand. So why do we insist on working against it?”

“Eighty percent of buildings are just one or two stories, so they don’t need super-high-strength materials.”

Hendrikx’s appreciation for design began with his father, Paul, who runs his own construction company and spent Hendrikx’s childhood extending and expanding their family home in central Eindhoven. As a child, Hendrikx was enamored with New York skyscrapers, and he later set out to become an architect, eventually studying at the Delft University of Technology.

As a postgraduate student, Hendrikx became interested in the impact of traditional construction materials. Construction is responsible for around one-tenth of global CO2 emissions, more than shipping and aviation combined; cement production alone is thought to produce 4-8 percent of human-made carbon emissions. If nature has been growing things for billions of years, Hendrikx thought, why can’t it also grow our homes?

For his thesis, Hendrikx researched “living architecture”: organisms such as coral and algae, or materials like silk, with which you could theoretically grow a house. But the standout was mycelium, which is cheap, abundant, and grows quickly. Mycelium-composite structures also have tremendous sound and heat insulation.

According to Dirk Hebel, one of the architects behind the design of the MycoTree, mycelium composites might one day directly replace concrete in some construction projects. With the correct substrate, growing conditions, and post-production, Hebel’s team at the Karlsruhe Faculty of Architecture has grown mycelium-composite bricks with a compressive strength similar to that of a baked clay brick. “Around 80 percent of our buildings worldwide are just one or two stories, so the majority don’t need super-high-strength materials,” Hebel says.

NASA is also exploring how mycelium composites could “revolutionize space architecture,” says professor Lynn Rothschild. Since 2017, Rothschild, leading a team funded under the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, has been testing how such material might react to Martian and lunar conditions. “Any time you can lower your up-mass—the mass that you’re having to launch against Earth’s gravity—you save enormously on the mission costs,” Rothschild says. “If we can save 80 percent of what we were planning to take for a big steel structure, that’s huge.”

A Loop worker gathers substrate ingredients.

Photograph: Eriver Hijano
Rothschild envisions pop-up structures that operate as a lightweight scaffolding on which mycelium could grow. The structure would be coated in a nutrient solution because there is no organic substrate available on Mars or the Moon, and cyanobacteria, which would produce the oxygen the mycelium needs. Once the structure has grown, Rothschild suspects you could use sunlight to “cook” the organism, and she believes mycelium composites could eventually be used for landing strips, garages to protect rovers from wind and dust, and even full settlements. “You don’t need to worry about joints, you don’t need to worry about size, you don’t need to worry about planning every detail in advance,” she says.

TYPICALLY, MYCELIUM COMPOSITES are heated and killed after forming, which turns the structure rigid. Hendrikx also intended to kill the mycelium, but he grew to appreciate it as a conscious being, rather than a product, and so uses it alive. Building with living mycelium composites is a challenge, however. The organism needs a steady food source; if the substrate runs out, the structure loses its integrity and cannibalizes itself. When the mycelium is alive, these composites also feel more like slimy, wet cardboard than hardboard—and there’s the possibility it will sprout mushrooms whose spores can cause respiratory problems.

So Hendrikx approached Bob Ursem, the scientific director of the Botanical Garden at Delft University of Technology. A convivial 64-year-old with gray hair and round Harry Potter-like glasses, Ursem suggested the mycelium be placed in a state of dormancy: alive but not growing. Drying the fungus with a low heat renders it inactive; the material becomes stiff but remains adaptable, and it doesn’t decay as easily. (There’s also no sprouting.) To bring it back to life, one need only reintroduce the mycelium to a suitably humid environment.

“A fungus can grow and stop,” Ursem says. “It deactivates, forming a hard shield or a cocoon, until it has the environment and the food for it to grow again.”

Dormant mycelia pave the way for new kinds of architectural geometries and spatial organizations. Instead of seeing construction as an assembly of components, Hendrikx began to envision a world in which we could cultivate entire buildings or even settlements in one go. Inhabitants could grow extra rooms by triggering the mycelium’s capacity to reanimate. According to Ursem, buildings might one day be able to self-assemble on site. “What you get is flexible housing,” he says.

“As with a home, you need to nurture it. If we don’t take care of our environment, then the home won’t care for us.”

Because live mycelium networks are capable of transferring electrical signals like a brain, and these signals respond to mechanical, optical, and chemical stimulation, such intelligent buildings could theoretically respond to their environment. According to Andrew Adamatzky, a professor and head of the Unconventional Computing Laboratory at UWE Bristol, homes could turn on a light when it goes dark or open the window if CO2 levels are too high. Fungi react to stimuli; one could also imagine living homes that detect illnesses in their inhabitants based on the air they exhale. “In principle, fungi react to all stimuli that dogs react to, so if dogs can be trained to detect something, then fungi can do the same,” Adamatzky says.

Bob Hendrikx inspects a coffin in the “growing” chamber, where the inoculated substrate is packed into molds and left to form over about a week.

Photograph: Eriver Hijano
However, dormant mycelium is unstable; such homes could potentially reactivate at any time—even from a change in the weather. Rogue fungi might colonize other building materials, such as wood flooring, explains Mitchell Jones, a research scientist in the Institute of Material Chemistry and Research at the University of Vienna.

Living Cocoon caskets are inspected before being shipped.

Photograph: Eriver Hijano
To overcome this, Hendrikx hopes to construct walls with two layers of dead mycelium enclosing a layer of living mycelium, much like the bark on a tree. This would shut water out from the inner layer, he told me, keeping the fungus there dormant. He also wants to implant sensors within the mycelium to monitor its temperature, moisture levels, and the amount of remaining substrate. Based on that data, he said inhabitants could decide to grow the home by adding substrate, shrink it by starving it, or maintain it by applying an algae-based solution filled with nutrients. All this, in Hendrikx’ mind, could be controlled through an app.

“As with [any] home, you need to nurture it to extend your stay,” Hendrikx told me. “If we don’t take care of our environment, then the home won’t care for us.”

Living Cocoon caskets and lids come out of their molds wet and need to be dried in special tents before inspection and shipping.

Photograph: Eriver Hijano
AS SOON AS Felix Lindholm was diagnosed with prostate cancer in early 2020, he began to wonder what to do with his body after his death. (Felix’s name has been changed to protect his family’s privacy.) A retired director of an art school in a town close to Belgium’s border, he loved nature and wished to tread lightly on the planet as he left it. He bought a plot at a “natural burial” ground, where graves are dug by hand and synthetic fabrics are banned.

Lindholm researched caskets made of biodegradable materials like recycled paper, cardboard, wicker, willow, and banana leaf; he even considered a simple, organic cotton shroud. Then he discovered the Living Cocoon. In September 2021, he became a Loop customer.

Death has a more deleterious impact on the environment than many realize. According to one estimate, cemeteries in the US take up around 1.4 million acres, while around 13,000 tons of steel and 1.5 million tons of concrete are used for burial vaults annually. If every burial used wooden caskets, they would need 150 million board feet of hardwood each year. Metal coffins, popular because they’re better at preserving the body, corrode in the soil or oxidize in underground vaults.

As a corpse decomposes, it releases around 40 liters of liquid, including water, ammoniacal nitrogen, organic matter, and salts. Bodies may contain metals like silver, platinum, and cobalt from orthopedic implants and mercury from dental fillings. If the deceased has had chemotherapy, the liquid may leach out; then there’s embalming fluid, a potent chemical cocktail that contains formaldehyde, a carcinogen. The 18 million liters of embalming fluid that leach into US soil annually could fill six Olympic-size swimming pools.

When buried without a coffin, in ordinary soil, an unembalmed adult normally takes eight to 12 years to decompose to a skeleton. Placed in a coffin, the body can take decades longer. As a result, a quarter of England’s cemeteries are expected to be full by 2023.

Cremation is no better. Globally, the industry is estimated to produce 6.8 million tons of CO2 annually, as well as carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide.

Natural burials have grown in popularity, as has resomation, where bodies are dissolved in water and potassium hydroxide. And then there’s human composting. The first large-scale facility opened in Seattle in January 2021.

Hendrikx was encouraged to pursue the idea of the Living Cocoon by a passer-by at Dutch Design Week 2019, where he was presenting “Mollie,” a home constructed out of blocks of living mycelium cultivated from mushroom spores from Japan. Hendrikx believed a mycelium casket could make death “restorative” by cleansing the soil.

Each Living Cocoon is grown using mycelium Ganoderma lucidum, a fungus that’s venerated across East Asia for its healing powers. In China it’s known as lingzhi, which translates to “mushroom of immortality,” while the Japanese refer to it as reishi, meaning “soul mushroom.” Hendrikx chose Ganoderma because it’s a fast colonizer, but also because it can consume a wide range of substrates, leading to better growth and stronger, more penetrative bonds. The better the growth, the tougher the mycelium composite; the last thing you want is for the coffin to collapse before it’s in the ground.

The moment the casket is lowered into the soil, “a party begins,” Hendrikx told me. The humidity reactivates the fungus, so it begins hunting for food. Its enzymes first break down the wood chips, then any toxins that exist in the soil. Fungi are able to break down most environmental toxins, except heavy metals—they absorb and hyperaccumulate those in their fruiting bodies, which can then be removed.

Once there’s no food left, the fungus starves, dies, and becomes food for other microorganisms in the soil, which go on to colonize the corpse. According to Hendrikx’s early testing, the Living Cocoon is absorbed into the earth in around 60 days, and while he doesn’t have data to prove it, he believes a body inside a Living Cocoon will decompose in just two to three years.

A collection of fungi displayed in the Loop lab.

Photograph: Eriver Hijano
A FEW DAYS after my tour of the Loop factory, I joined Susanne Duijvestein, a “green” funeral director, for a tour of Zorgvlied, one of the Netherlands’ largest cemeteries, a short cycle ride outside of Amsterdam, where peacocks roamed freely among the shadows of sycamore and oak trees.

For Duijvestein, a 35-year-old former banker with a tangle of long, blonde hair, marble headstones are symbolic of a society that still doesn’t know how to deal with death. As she showed me the natural burial section, an area of flat ground bereft of markers, statues, and even floral arrangements, she said that there is no silver bullet when it comes to disposing of the dead—but if there was, it wouldn’t be the Living Cocoon. “We need a lot of systemic change,” she tells me, “not a single coffin that costs a lot of money.” (Each Living Cocoon costs €1,495, about $1,530.)

Duijvestein, for one, doubts Loop’s promises. There is still no evidence, she says, that the mycelium reactivates when buried, where there’s little to no oxygen. Any oxygen in the coffin and in gaps in the soil would be consumed by microbes. Myco-remediation is an aerobic process, so it would be like trying to light a fire underground.

“Before this, people were seeing nature as a source for inspiration. The next stage is using it for collaboration.”

“Before [Hendrikx] went viral, he hadn’t actually buried a human body before. So his claims aren’t proven yet,” Duijvestein said. “I do know that among many other species, fungi definitely help with decomposition in natural circumstances on top of the ground. But I am not convinced that they also work six feet under with the typical poor cemetery-soil conditions.”

Having worked in the funeral industry for five years, Duijvestein told me how she’s seen many supposedly green funeral products that don’t perform as claimed. One of the most memorable was the Infinity Burial Suit, made from organic cotton embedded with material from specially cultivated mushrooms. Developed by Coeio, a California-based “green” burial company, it made headlines in 2019 when former Beverly Hills 90210 star Luke Perry was buried in one. Like the Living Cocoon, it claims to use mycelium to cleanse the body of toxins and return nutrients to the soil, but some have questioned this premise.

One of the suit’s loudest critics is Billy Campbell, a cofounder of the first conservation burial ground in the US. According to Campbell, Coeio’s technology is not grounded in science, because the fungi would almost certainly die as soon as they’re buried in the earth. The fungi the Infinity Suit uses, the gray oyster, would also be unable to digest the harsh toxins the body excretes. Loop’s Living Cocoon, Campbell says, would fall at the same hurdle: The Ganoderma lucidum, another species that feeds predominantly on cellulose-rich organic matter, would be unable to deal with the toxins coming from the human body. Because Ganoderma are most effective in an acidic environment, he says, they’re also unlikely to survive the alkaline environment of ammonium seeping out of a corpse.

“You can’t just put a bunch of fungal stuff that you’ve grown on cellulose or some other cultural medium deep into the ground,” Campbell explains. “It isn’t going to survive long enough for remediation to be possible.”

That’s not to say the Living Cocoon isn’t a more sustainable solution than a wood or metal casket; but Campbell worries that Hendrikx’s claims are overblown. “I think it is incumbent on them to demonstrate that [the mycelium] is reactivated in a meaningful way,” Campbell says. “For now, I see this as one more product, and not a bad one, but not a breakthrough.”

Bob Hendrikx pours in a solution containing his special mycelium, while a Loop worker uses an electric mixer to blend it into a batch of substrate, ready for decanting into a casket-shaped mold.

Photograph: Eriver Hijano
THE MORNING AFTER my meeting with Duijvestein, I took the train to the Hendrikx family home in Eindhoven. Overlooking a peaceful garden setting through the panoramic windows in the living room, I listened as Hendrikx took a new order for four Living Cocoons—his largest yet—and fielded calls from enthusiastic investors and journalists eager to report on his exhibition.

Over lunch, he batted away my questions about whether the Living Cocoon would indeed activate in the soil because Ursem had told him that it would. “At the beginning, our first assumption was that there was no oxygen, but then we learned there was. The answer is just simply ‘Yes.’ We can talk for a long time about it, but …” Instead, he explained how he intends to incorporate bioluminescent fungus, which can be triggered to glow in the dark, to replace the candles people sometimes place on a grave. In the future, he wants to grow gene-edited light-emitting trees that he believes could one day line idyllic city streets. “Instead of street lamps, we’d just have a nice tree,” he told me.

That afternoon, we transported some bushes from the family’s garden to the Microlab, a concrete behemoth of a building that hosts Dutch Design Week. In one corner of the exhibition space lay the latest iteration of the Living Cocoon. Light brown and with more curvature than a regular casket, it’s supposed to make death feel more human. Hendrikx had surrounded it with an assortment of trees and flowers, to make it look as aesthetically pleasing as possible. Even then, it still looked otherworldly, out of place.

It wasn’t until the following week that I heard from Hendrikx again: “We won,” he texted, with a photo of the “Public Award” trophy. After the award, he was invited to speak about the coffin on national television in the UK and on CNN and to give a lecture at the Stedelijk Museum.

It was a landmark moment for Loop. But to Hendrikx it was just one piece of a larger puzzle. The goal of the casket is to “prove that we can collaborate with living organisms,” he says, which will pave the way for his more radical living products. “It’s unrealistic right now, but for me it’s the only way forward.”

THE NEXT STEP is to develop a portfolio of live mycelium funeral products for humans and animals, and then to move into above-ground composting and luminous trees. One day, Hendrikx wants to bioluminate entire cities and then, at some point, to build those cities out of mycelium. “We are pioneering, but this is a movement we will see in the coming decades,” Hendrikx says. “Before this, people were seeing nature as a source for inspiration. The next stage is using it for collaboration.”

Originally posted Wired

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Can Mushrooms talk?

can mushrooms talk

Language. While it has long been thought of as a distinguishing factor between humans and other animals, making us unique on planet Earth, recent research has shown many other species, such as bees and dolphins, also possess the ability to communicate.

Now, a new study, published in The Royal Society and conducted by Professor Andrew Adamatzky at the University of the West of England, asks a novel question: can mushrooms talk to each other? Do they too have a language?

And while the findings of his initial study are by no means definitive, the early answer appears to be yes.

Professor Adamatzky’s lab used a mathematical analysis on the electrical signals that fungi send to each other through their hyphae, underground tubes connecting together the mushrooms in a fungal colony, analogous to human nerve cells or the roots of a plant. In the analysis, the lab found that the electrical signals pulse in patterns that are stunningly similar in structure to human languages.

In fact, in the four species of fungi tested, the researcher found that the electric pulses could be organized into “trains” that resemble human words, and that a “lexicon,” or vocabulary, of “up to 50 words” appears to be present.

There also appears to be patterns to the order in which the “words” are used, which would strengthen the idea that there is a “language” at play following a set of rules. In other words, there was a distinct syntax.

can mushrooms talkThere were several other interesting findings presented by Professor Adamatzky. First, in a previous study, his lab found that when an environmental change is induced via mechanical, chemical or optical stimulation, the fungi modify the characteristics of their electrical “spike trains.” Does this indicate that one section of the fungal colony is communicating the changes to the rest of the colony? Could it be sharing information about food or injury? While impossible to say at this point, it is an intriguing hypothesis. But if this were the case, it would be a clear sign of fungal intelligence.

Next, while the measured lexicon tops out at around 50 words, the method of classification was primitive. The lab classified each “word” by measuring the number of electrical spikes within each train, irregardless of the ordering of the spikes. Professor Adamatzky likens this to binary, by saying it is akin to measuring how many ones and zeros are in a particular piece of code, while ignoring their configuration. This could mean that the 50 words that he is measuring, if studied more carefully, could actually be thousands of unique words, making the language much more complex.

Lastly, the variations between different fungi species deserves note. As previously mentioned, Adamatzky studied four different fungi: enoki, split gill, ghost and caterpillar fungi. These mushrooms’ languages varied in complexity, size, and syntax. This suggests different species have different “dialects”.

Personally, I would be fascinated if two colonies of the same species, which had never come in contact with each other, and perhaps originated from different parts of the world, had any variations. To me, this would indicate that what we are witnessing is in fact a culturally evolved language as opposed to a simple biological process. For example, we know that dolphins have developed culturally derived languages since their whistling dialect differs based on geography. Dolphins from different seas, despite being the same species, talk differently.

As exciting as these results are, it is important to remember that this field of study is in its very early days, and many possible explanations exist that could explain Professor Adamatzky’s data other than language.

As Dan Bebber, an associate professor of biosciences at the University of Exeter, told The Guardian, “Though interesting, the interpretation as language seems somewhat overenthusiastic, and would require far more research and testing of critical hypotheses before we see ‘Fungus’ on Google Translate.”

Essentially, what Bebber is saying is that more research needs to be done. Professor Adamatzky would agree with this, and spent the last portion of his paper discussing the direction that future research should go in.

Finally, I and many of my colleagues at Psychedelic Spotlight would be very interested in seeing if and how the language of so-called “magic mushrooms” varies from other species of fungi. I would love to see a similar study conducted on psilocybe cubensis, the most common form of hallucinogenic mushroom. If mushrooms really can communicate and fungal intelligence exists, then it would be a good bet that the mushrooms which are capable of changing our perceptions of reality and consciousness could have the most complex forms of communication. But that is just a guess.

If the ability of language extends beyond humans, not only to other mammals such as dolphins, or insects like bees, but even to different kingdoms like fungi, then humans will be forced to question our uniqueness here on the pale blue dot we call Earth.

Orgonally posted psychedelicspotlight.com



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Can mushrooms heal the climate? They’ve done it before.

mushrooms and their ability to heal the climate

The Fungi Foundation, the world’s first non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to fungi, seeks to raise awareness about the role fungi can play in mitigating climate change and increasing biodiversity.

Giuliana Furci, a mycologist and founder of the Fungi Foundation believes that while more people are speaking about the need for sustainable agriculture, the role of fungi are often absent from the conversation.

“Soil health is all the rage these days, but we’re missing the fungi in that,” Furci told Food Tank. “It’s very safe to say that without fungi there would be no soil.”

The interdependence of plants and fungi has evolved over millions of years. Mycelium — the intricate root system that feeds growing fungi and cleanses the soil of toxins — breaks down organic matter and provides plants with both water and nutrient rich soil. Beyond that, the mycorrhizal network is responsible for sequestering up to 70 percent of plants’ carbon, and holding it there indefinitely.

“Fungi have been proven to be the organisms in the boreal forests that sequester the largest amount of carbon in a forest system,” she said.

Furci, based in Chile, helped the country become the first in the world to include the Fungi Kingdom in its environmental legislation. This allows Chilean fungi to be included in the study and evaluation of environmental impacts throughout the country as well as the country’s environmental protection laws.

Ninety percent of plants have a mutually beneficial relationship with fungi.

And according to a study from Nature, fungal biodiversity determines plant biodiversity, ecosystem variability and productivity. “As [mycologist] Paul Stamets likes to say, microdiversity is biosecurity,” Furci said. She believes the protection of fungi is essential to support planetary health.

microdiversity is biosecurity

After a decade of successfully working on research, education and conservation of mushrooms and other Fungi Kingdom members in Chile, the foundation recently expanded its programs globally.

Mycelium can degrade plastic and crude oil, and absorb radioactive contaminants and heavy metals.
The foundation is working with international mycologists, field experts, local harvesters and guides around the world. Together, they hope to better understand and protect the Fungi kingdom and communicate its potential as a contributor to nature-based solutions of global problems. The new U.S. chapter’s board of directors includes Stamets, Nathalie Kelley and Joanna Foster.

As the foundation grows, Furci hopes that they can continue to raise awareness of the extensive benefits of fungi.

Furci highlights research conducted by Stamets in conjunction with Washington State University, which led to the discovery of a mushroom extract that can protect bee populations. She believes this intervention could prove to be significant as bee populations decline.

Mycelium also can be used as a recycling agent to clean up contamination in the environment through a process called mycoremediation. Studies show that mycelium can degrade plastic and crude oil, and absorb radioactive contaminants and heavy metals.

But Furci tells Food Tank that fungi also can serve other purposes. “What we’re seeing today is a very prolific use of mycelium to substitute materials,” Furci said. Mycelium can act as a natural and environment-friendly alternative for plastic and styrofoam packaging, which does not decompose.

She believes that as more people become aware of the utility of fungi, they will begin to value the important role they play. “It’s obvious, it was obvious, it was just a matter of time all along. There is nothing cooler on earth than fungi.”



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Mushrooms changing the pesticide landscape for the better

mushroom-biopesticides

Pesticides are biological poisons and are being used in greater and greater quantities every year to offset the immunity that insects develop to them over time. It’s a vicious cycle that can’t be solved by further pesticide use and, in fact, is already reaching a zenith as so-called superbugs develop after thousands of successive generations that are basically immune to pesticides altogether.

Biopesticide innovation offers a glimmer of hope—implementing nature’s own bioregulation mechanisms on a massive scale to create further harmony and balance rather than the continual disruption propagated by the current agricultural model. Furthermore, only a teaspoonful of the fungus grown on a substrate such as rice—and costing only a few cents to produce—is sufficient to treat an area the size of a house for nearly an entire growing season.

https://www.consciouslifestylemag.com/biopesticides-mushroom-based-safe/



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