Mushrooms Actually Talk To Each Other After One Natural Occurrence

Scientists have discovered mushrooms communicate using underground electrical signals, particularly after rain.

By Charlene Badasie | Updated

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Scientists in Japan have discovered that mushrooms talk to each other and are the most chatty when it rains. The fungi communicate using underground electrical signals which travel through a vast network of underground roots. While their primary purpose is to absorb nutrients, the roots also send messages coordinating growth or warnings about insects or diseases.

According to Science Alert, the study was conducted on small, tan mushrooms known as bicolored deceivers or Laccaria bicolor. These fungi grow on the floor of a secondary mixed forest at Japan’s Kawatabi Field Science Center of Tohoku University. For the experiment, researchers attached electrodes to six mushrooms in a cluster to measure their electrical signals.

They discovered that the electrical signals between mushrooms that talk fluctuated over time. The conversations also seemed to be influenced by changes in temperature and moisture, with a significant spike occurring after rainfall. Furthermore, the strength of the signals was greater between mushrooms that were in close proximity.

“In the beginning, the mushrooms exhibited less electrical potential, and we boiled this down to the lack of precipitation,” Lead Researcher on the study, Yu Fukasawa, said. “However, the electrical potential began to fluctuate after raining, sometimes going over 100 mV,” he added. These findings indicate the need for more studies investigating mushrooms that talk via electric signals in real-world locations.

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The research, published in the journal Fungal Ecology, is far from definitive. But it does highlight the role fungi play in ecosystems hidden underneath forest floors. L. bicolor is an ectomycorrhizal fungus that forms a symbiotic relationship with plants and large trees. These hosts boost the mushroom’s supply of water and nutrients in exchange for carbohydrates.

Previous research also suggested that mushrooms have the ability to talk via electrical signals. However, the scientific community has been divided on whether this constitutes a form of language. Findings published in the journal Royal Society Open Science record electrical impulses from four different types of fungi using sub-dermal needle electrodes to see if the mushrooms talk.

While spiking patterns in these electrical signals were discovered, the significance and implications of this research were debated. But the key difference between the studies is that Andrew Adamatzky, a computer scientist at the University of the West of England’s Unconventional Computing Laboratory, carried out the experiments in a lab.

Fukasawa’s more recent research on mushrooms that talk was the first to demonstrate communication in the wild. Whether these fungi converse in a way that resembles human language is still a subject of ongoing investigation. The current research into electrical signals is in its early stages, indicating that there is still much to discover about the intricacies of fungal behavior and life cycles.

The potential applications of this knowledge are vast, ranging from the therapeutic use of psilocybin mushrooms for mental illness treatment to understanding the role of pathogenic fungi in potential future pandemics. Wild varieties are hunted by enthusiasts knowledgeable about identifying the mushroom’s origins. As such, fungi continue to unveil their remarkable contributions to life on Earth, leaving much to be explored and understood.