The wide-ranging forests of Assam are home to the vast diversity of fungi where a new variety of fungi species named Roridomyces phyllostachydis was discovered by the researchers of India and China. This species got its name from “Phyllostachys”, a bamboo under which this fungus is seen.
A group of scientists from the Balipara Foundation in the Sonitpur district of Assam and Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences was on a mushroom documentation project in the northeast. They heard about the “electric mushroom” from the locals in West Jaintia Hills District in Meghalaya in a bamboo forest. They are found on dead bamboo, Phyllostachys mannii.
The scientists named it “bioluminescent mushroom”. The stalks or stipes of the tiny mushrooms on the bamboo glow green. The stipe is “glutinous, slimy and moist”. The beige-colored pileus (cap-like part) is not bioluminescent adds uniqueness to this genus. The locals used natural torches to navigate the forest at night.
What Are Bioluminescent Fungi?
The fungus has the ability to emits its own light – a phenomenon called bioluminescence. The emission of light occurs as a result of a chemical reaction in which the energy is released as light.
Why Do Mushroom Glow?
The luminescence comes from the enzyme, luciferase. Light is emitted when luciferase catalyzes luciferans in presence of oxygen. Excess energy is released by the unstable intermediate products. This makes them visible as light. Bioluminescent mushrooms co-evolved with the specific insects for the ecological role of light. This offers an advantage of dispersing their spores or to deter frugivorous animals from consuming them.
CLICK ON THE LINK TO WATCH THE VIDEO OF THE GLOWING MUSHROOM IN MEGHALAYA
The gene of the mushroom was sequenced by scientists to check which genus it belongs to. The results showed that it belongs to Roridomyces. It is the first fungus species in the genus Roridomyces i.e., discovered from India. According to Samantha Karunarathna, a senior mycologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and lead author of the report, the members of the genus Roridomyces are very fragile and they love moist and humid conditions.
Picture: Bioluminescent mycelia on a bamboo substrate. Photo credit: Steve Axford
From the other 12 well-accepted species – Roridomyces irritans, Roridomyces lamprosporus, Roridomyces pruinosoviscidus, Roridomyces roridus, and Roridomyces sublucens are known to be bioluminescent according to Karunarathna. There are about 97 species of known bioluminescent fungi worldwide.
Senior scientist and head of Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden & Research Institute, CK Pradeep stated that fungi in India are not well documented. This research added significance in understanding the phytogeographical distribution of bioluminescent fungi and related issues. Finding bioluminescent fungi in forests during the night was quite challenging.
Steve Axford, an International fungal photographer and a famous videographer, Catherine Marciniak, accompanied the team of scientists.
Bioluminescent fungi are important due to their application in medical research, agricultural fields, environmental biosensors, biochemistry, photochemistry, evolution, and taxonomic research.
The research results are published in the journal PHYTOTAXA under the title “Roridomyces phyllostachydis (Agaricales, Mycenaceae), a new bioluminescent fungus from Northeast India”. The link is given below.
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