Wednesday, December 29, 2010

GLOWING MUSHROOM : Psychedelic New Species Seen

Glowing nonstop in the Brazilian rain forest, the newfound mushroom Mycena luxaeterna (pictured both in daylight, top, and in the dark) is indeed a source of eternal light, as its Latin name--inspired by verses from Mozart's "Requiem"--implies.

The tiny mushroom is one of 7 new species of glow-in-the-dark fungi found around the world, bringing the total known to 71, according to a study that appeared October 5 in the journal Mycologia.

San Francisco State University's Dennis Desjardin and colleagues scouted for mushrooms during new moons, in rain forests so dark they often couldn't see their hands in front of their faces, he said.

But "when you look down at the ground, it's like looking up at the sky," Desjardin said. "Every little 'star' was a little mushroom--it was just fantastic."

M. luxaeterna has a distinctive sticky gel on its stem that probably keeps it moist during the heat of the day. Unwitting insects get trapped in this natural fly paper, said Desjardin, who discovered the fungi with the University of Sao Paulo's Cassius V. Stevani.

Desjardin's colleague, Timothy Baroni of the State University of New York at Cortland, received funding to research the mushrooms from the National Geographic Society. (The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)

--Christine Dell'Amore
—Photograph courtesy Cassius V. Stevani, Chemistry Institute, University of Sao Paulo

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