Fascinating Fungi: New Research Shows Mushrooms May “Talk” to Each Other

Fascinating Fungi: New Research Shows Mushrooms May “Talk” to Each Other

f, in some sort of creative thought experiment, I had to assign personality quirks to vegetables, I’d give “talkative” to carrots, or possibly broccoli. Never in a million years would I have considered mushrooms to be chatty, but recent research points to fungi as potentially being the “fun guy” you’d want at a party.

Professor Adam Adamatzky of the University of West England has mathematically analyzed the patterns of electrical impulses different types of fungi send to each other. In his research, published recently in Royal Society Open Science, Adamatzky studied the pulses sent between five different groups of mushrooms: Split gill, ghost, caterpillar, and the ever-delicious enoki. He asserts that the patterns he observed are similar to those found in human speech, and that mushrooms might have a vocabulary of up to 50 “words,” that they possibly use to communicate basic information to each other, through a network of mycelium made up of tendrils called hyphae.

“The most likely reasons for these waves of electrical activity are to maintain the fungi’s integrity – analogous to wolves howling to maintain the integrity of the pack – or to report newly discovered sources of attractants and repellants to other parts of their mycelia, Adamtzky suggested.

‘There is also another option – they are saying nothing,’ he said. ‘Propagating mycelium tips are electrically charged, and, therefore, when the charged tips pass in a pair of differential electrodes, a spike in the potential difference is recorded.’

Whatever these ‘spiking events’ represent, they do not appear to be random, he added.”

Maybe don’t send those party invites out quite yet: Though my imagination is already firing like so many propagating mycelium tips, Adamatzky and his colleagues in the field acknowledge this is early days. A lot more research and experimentation needs to be done before a portobello gets invited on Fresh Air. (For instance, this sort of pulsing behaviour has been seen in fungi before, where it indicated simple physical growth.) I for one hope Adamatzky and team get lots of funding and answers soon: I have a paper bag full of criminis sitting placidly in my fridge, and I fear they are planning something!