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  • Arushi Srivastava

Can Mushrooms Talk to Each Other?

The ability to communicate effectively with other individuals plays a critical role in the life of all species. From the squeaks and chatters of animals to the invisible chemical signals emitted by plants, communication is important to understand one another and relate. Although seeming inanimate, a recent study has now shown that mushrooms too may have been communicating with each other all this while.


New research by computer scientist Andrew Adamatzky at the Unconventional Computing Laboratory, suggests that the ancient kingdom of fungus has an electrical “language” all of its own. One which happens to be far more perplexing than anyone previously thought. According to the study, mushrooms might even be using words to form sentences to communicate with their neighbours.


Almost all communication between multicellular organisms involves impulse transmission amongst the highly specialised cells of the neurons. They help to conduct messages from one part of an animal to another via a connected network called the nervous system. The language of this nervous system comprises distinctive patterns of spikes of electrical potential, which helps creatures detect and respond briskly to what is going on in their environment. However, the fungi kingdom does not have a nervous system, which has made this discovery even more compelling. From further examination, it has been understood that these species are seeming to transmit information using electrical impulses across their long underground thread-like filamentous tendrils called hyphae.


These filaments form a thin web called a mycelium that links fungal colonies within the soil. Such networks happen to be extraordinarily similar to the animal nervous systems. By measuring the frequency and intensity of these impulses, it may be possible to unpick and apprehend the languages used for communication across this enthralling species.


Using tiny electrodes, Adamatzky recorded the rhythmic electrical impulses transmitted across the mycelium of four different species of fungi. He found that the impulses varied by amplitude, frequency, and duration. By drawing mathematical comparisons between these patterns, Adam suggests they form the basis of a fungal language comprising up to 50 words organised into sentences. Nevertheless, the language complexity appeared to differ in different species. For instance, Split Gill Fungi generated the most complex sentences with the largest vocabulary, while species like Enoki Fungi and Caterpillar Fungi have a smaller batch of words.

The Guardian newspaper has reported that previous research shows that the number of electrical impulses travelling through hyphae increases when mushrooms encounter new sources of food. This suggests that they may be using this language for sending signals about where food and other resources are.


Nonetheless, some scientists are skeptical about this. Pulsing behaviour has been recorded previously as fungi transport nutrients, which might cause the spikes seen in the new study. The detected rhythmic patterns in these electrical signals are of a similar frequency as the nutrient pulses found. Dan Bebber, a co-author on previous studies of this phenomenon shares that although the findings are interesting, the interpretation of the language seems overenthusiastic, and would require far more research and testing of critical hypotheses before we see ‘Fungus’ on Google Translate.


The creations of this world are truly mysterious. It is bizarre to think about how the stagnant mushrooms could have been possibly communicating all this while without us knowing. We hope that someday, with further research on the fungi kingdom, we will be able to understand these creations more deeply.


Bibliography:

  1. Sharma, Bharat. “Mushrooms and other fungi talk to each other using a language just like humans” Indiatimes. 13 Apr, 2022. Web. 17 Jun, 2022. <https://www.indiatimes.com/technology/news/mushrooms-and-other-fungi-talk-to-each-other-using-a-language-just-like-humans-566810.html>

  2. Mesa, Natalia. “Can Mushrooms “Talk” to Each Other?” TheScientist. 6 Apr, 2022. Web. 17 Jun, 2022. <https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/can-mushrooms-talk-to-each-other-69885>

  3. Field, Katie. ”Do mushrooms really use language to talk to each other? A fungi expert investigates” The Conversation. 14 Apr, 2022. Web. 17 Jun, 2022. <https://theconversation.com/do-mushrooms-really-use-language-to-talk-to-each-other-a-fungi-expert-investigates-181079#:~:text=It%20is%20possible%20the%20fungal,the%20new%20research%20are%20transmitted>


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