Mushroom Communication: How Fungi Transfer Electrical Signals in Forest Ecosystems

Category Science

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The recent discovery of mushroom communication using electricity provides valuable insight into the complex relationships between fungi and trees in forest ecosystems. Researchers found that post-rainfall electric potential was present among mushrooms, suggesting an underlying role in the calcium and essential nutrient exchange. Despite uncertainty of the ecological context of fungal electrical potentials, this study reveals the crucial role of fungi in forest ecology and vital need for further studies.

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A recent study by a group of researchers has uncovered new evidence that mushrooms communicate using electricity, providing insight into the ecological role of fungi in forest ecosystems.

The researchers, who attached electrodes to six Laccaria bicolor mushrooms, found that the electrical signals increased after rainfall.

The team correlated the fluctuations in the electrical potential with precipitation and temperature and discovered that the post-rain electric potential showed signal transport among mushrooms, according to the university press release.

Fungi is one of the most massive living organisms on earth.

Ectomycorrhizal fungi are known to form a sheath around the outside of tree roots that develop into vast underground networks, able to absorb vital nutrients from the soil and transfer them to trees.

Scientists have been studying the possibility of electrical signal transfer between mushrooms and across trees via the mycelial networks. It is thought that fungi generate electrical signals in response to external stimuli and use these signals to communicate with each other, coordinating growth and other behavior.

It is estimated that just one teaspoon of healthy forest soil can have up to 8 miles of fungal threads.

Yu Fukasawa from Tohoku University, who led the project, along with Takayuki Takehi and Daisuke Akai from the National Institute of Technology, Nagaoka College, and Masayuki Ushio from the Hakubi Center, Kyoto University (presently at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology), said that the electrical potential began to fluctuate after raining, sometimes going over 100 mV.

The researchers correlated this fluctuation with precipitation and temperature, and causality analysis revealed that the post-rain electric potential showed signal transport among mushrooms. This transport was particularly strong between spatially close mushrooms and demonstrated directionality. "Our results confirm the need for further studies on fungal electrical potentials under a true ecological context," said Fukasawa.

Fungi can grow and adapt to most environments on the planet.

The researchers emphasized the importance of conducting further studies in the natural environment rather than in the laboratory, as many previous studies had been limited to the latter.

The new findings provide valuable insight into the complex relationships between fungi and trees in forest ecosystems. It has long been known that ectomycorrhizal fungi play a critical role in the ecological sustenance of forest trees by transferring vital nutrients to them.

Fungi perform many beneficial functions for the environment, including the recycling of nutrients and the transformation of toxins into forms available for reuse.

However, the discovery of electrical signals between mushrooms and their possible role in coordinating growth and nutrient transfer adds a new layer of complexity to our understanding of the forest ecosystem.

In conclusion, this study is an important step forward in understanding the role of mushrooms in forest ecology. By uncovering the role of electrical signals in mushroom communication, the research provides valuable insights into the complex relationships between fungi and trees in forest ecosystems. Further studies are needed to gain a deeper understanding of the ecological context of fungal electrical potentials and their role in forest ecosystems.​ .

They can also play an important role in the food chain by providing essential nutrients for larger organisms and stabilizing soil.

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