Sky News Punjab
March 30th, 2021
During the monsoon, a team of scientists from India and China embarked on a fungal foray in Assam.
After hearing reports from locals of “electric mushrooms”, they headed to West Jaintia Hills District in Meghalaya.
Local residents used the glowing bamboo sticks as natural torches to navigate the forest at night. Steve Axford, a fungal photographer who accompanied the team, set up a small studio and took photos.
Upon closer observation, the team noticed that only the stipes (stalks) of the mushroom lit up and they suspected it could be a new species, said Gautam Baruah, who leads the Rural Futures initiative at the Balipara Foundation in Assam and is a co-author of the report. A detailed examination in the laboratory had confirmed their suspicion: it was a new species from the genus Roridomyces – and the first fungus in this genus to be discovered from India.
“The members of the genus Roridomyces are very fragile and they love moist and humid conditions,” explained Samantha Karunarathna, senior mycologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and lead author of the report. “In general, bioluminescent mushrooms seem to have co-evolved together with some specific insects as these mushrooms attract insects to disperse their spores.”
Senior scientist and head of Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden & Research Institute, CK Pradeep hails the finding, stating that fungi in India are not well documented compared with other regions of the world.
“This discovery is thus very important and adds significance in understanding the phytogeographical distribution of bioluminescent fungi and related issues,” he said. “Finding bioluminescent fungi in forests is quite challenging,” he added, “as we have to search for them at night!”