A new study has found that fungi may be able to communicate with each other through patterns of electrical signals.
Computer scientist Andrew Adamatzky from the University of the West of England analyzed the electrical activity of four species of fungi and published his findings last Wednesday in the Royal Society Open Science journal. He found that spikes in electrical activity were used by fungi to communicate and transmit information to other fungi in their network.
“So with this latest study, a computer scientist sticks electrodes into mushrooms and asks, ‘What do the signals look like? And do the signals have any complexity? CTV News Channel on Sundays.
Beneath each fungus are hyphae, which are root-like underground structures that can be compared to nerve cells in the human nervous system. When the hyphae form a network, called mycelium, it can facilitate communication between fungi.
“There is a whole culture around mushrooms and they are undoubtedly amazing architects of our natural world,” Riskin said. “They have this huge underground network and every once in a while they grow mushrooms to reproduce. But most of the time they stay hidden.”
The study found that the spikes of electrical signals generated by the mushrooms can resemble a tongue. Spikes can be grouped into “words” and “phrases,” and depending on the study, these mushrooms can have a vocabulary of up to 50 “words.”
“There is growing evidence that these hyphae send types of signals between individuals…communicate about where resources are, where food is, and maybe they also have stumbling conversations like mushrooms,” Riskin explained. .
The complexity of the tongue varies according to the species of fungi. The study found that split gill fungi could generate the most complex sentences with the largest vocabulary, while other species like enoki mushrooms and caterpillar mushrooms had much smaller lexicons.
But while the study compares these fungal electrical signals to “words”, Riskin said it’s “a giant leap” to suggest that fungi use actual words to communicate with each other, like humans.
“I think most biologists will say that’s going too far… But having said that, that complexity probably underlies the real communication that happens between these organisms,” he said.
“It makes sense. They have the architecture to do that, and it would benefit them from a natural selection perspective. So there’s definitely a lot to decode here in terms of how these fungi and how these fungi do what theyre doing.”