New Study Suggests Mushrooms Can Talk!

The research indicates that electrical impulses may empower fungi communication.

Jun 20, 2022
New Study Suggests Mushrooms Can Talk! | The research indicates that electrical impulses may empower fungi communication.

Buried among the trees, deep in the forest, one mushroom says to another mushroom… This may sound like the start of a classic joke, but recent research suggests that fungi are actually talking to one another and that they have a lot to say.  

Mushrooms use electrical impulses to communicate
According to Screenshot media, Scientists from the Unconventional Computing Laboratory at the University of the West of England Bristol  analyzed certain  fungi behaviors and found that mushrooms actually have a vocabulary of about 50 words! 

Just as the nervous system serves humans, a network of internal communication through electrical impulses, similar to neurons, transmit information between two mushrooms, much like the cells in the body, to ultimately take action. 

For humans, that action is to make a decision or move a muscle and mushrooms are reacting similarly too. According to The Conversation, the team led by Professor Andrew Adamatzky used small electrodes to record the electrical impulses transmitted across an underground network of filament-like structures called hyphae that travel between mushrooms of four different fungi species. 

Patterns of fungal impulses resemble human language
Their study, published in the peer-reviewed journal of Royal Society Open Science, showed that the impulses clustered at different levels of amplitude (vibratory movement), frequency and duration, creating patterns. They noticed that the impulses were acting like letters, words and sentences based on the patterns. The average spoken word was 5.97 “letters” long. In human language the average word is 4.8 letters long. They suggested that the fungal vocabulary consists of almost 50 words, but that the core lexicon of the most frequently used words involves between 15-20 words. 

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In an interview with the Guardian, Adamatzky suggests that the mushrooms use their electrical language to maintain their integrity in nature, much like a pack of wolves howling in the night. They also use them to report danger, weather changes and new sources of attractants. 

“There is also another option – they are saying nothing,” he tells the Guardian. “Propagating mycelium tips (part of the hyphae) are electrically charged, and, therefore, when the charged tips pass in a pair of differential electrodes, a spike in the potential difference is recorded.” 

Fungal language still has a way to go 
While even Adamatzky is skeptical about  fungal language, he adds that the spikes are definitely not random ones. Dan Bebber from the University of Exeter and a member of the British Mycological Society’s fungal biology research committee tells the Guardian of Adamtzky’s work that, “Though interesting, the interpretation as language seems somewhat overenthusiastic, and would require far more research and testing of critical hypotheses before we see ‘Fungus’ on Google Translate.”

Adamatzky and his team, however, are eager to continue deciphering more fungal behavior to one day answer the question. Who knows, maybe they’ll discover that mushrooms are not only speaking to one another, but are quite the joke tellers too!

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Yael has a passion for research and discovery and devoted her studies to science. She is fascinated by anything technology related and how it can improve people’s lives. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, swimming and storytelling.