Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why do mushrooms glow in the dark?” Good question. Timely too. (Besides, it beats answering the question: “Why does Swiss cheese have all those holes in it and shouldn’t it be cheaper than regular cheese since you are getting all that air?” You think it should be cheaper because of all the air? Yeah, there are some holes in that theory, mmmkay?)
Why do mushrooms glow in the dark? They were grown in Springfield? (“Simpsons” reference, Google if you don’t get it.) Maybe you have indulged in one too many of them and they simply appear to glow in the dark to you, maybe?
OK, seriously, assuming your question is not a drug reference of some sort, you might have scanned a headline about mushrooms recently. Some mushrooms do indeed glow in the dark. In fact, our friend Rachel Feltman who runs The Washington Post’s “Speaking of Science” blog confirms it.
She says that “some mushrooms can glow in the dark. It’s true: At least 70 species of fungi, all of them gilled mushrooms from the order Agaricales and each from one of four evolutionary lineages, have some kind of bioluminescence or another.”
A little research reveals why some mushrooms glow in the dark. A recently published in the journal Current Biology states that mushrooms glow in the dark as a way of attracting insects that can carry their spores around.
If you meant why is it –as in what causes—some mushrooms to glow Feltman confirms it has to do with “chemical processes inside the mushrooms’ cells and presents itself in different parts of the mushroom — sometimes the thready mycelium that shoots through the dirt like a web of roots, sometimes the fruiting body of the mushroom itself, and sometimes the spores that float off on the wind.”
She also confirmed that some mushrooms glow in the dark for a “greater purpose.” The mushrooms glow in the dark because they “making a ‘come hither’ gesture. In fact, researchers in Brazil conducted a test using fake mushrooms, LED lights and some kind of “sticky traps” to confirm it.
Some mushrooms glow in the dark “to become a prime landing target” for specific insects to transport the mushrooms’ spores. The mushrooms evolved to the point where they learned how to shine in order to more easily facilitate distribution of their spoors.
(Guys, I know some times we all feel like mushrooms—left in the dark with someone feeding us nothing but sh*t-but don’t go out and buy a bunch of glow-in-the dark body paint though, OK? There are much more enjoyable ways for humans to distribute their spoors that don’t involve any type of creepy crawler.)
Why do mushrooms glow in the dark? Now you know.
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