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Wikenigma - an Encyclopedia of Unknowns Wikenigma - an Encyclopedia of the Unknown

Radiotrophic Fungi

Radiotrophic fungi were first discovered in 2000 as black moulds growing inside and around the damaged Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine. Subsequent research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine showed that three melanin-containing fungi, Cladosporium sphaerospermum, Wangiella dermatitidis, and Cryptococcus neoformans, were able to increase biomass faster in an environment in which the radiation level was 500 times higher than in the normal environment.

It's thought that the fungi might have a biochemical mechanism which is able to use gamma radiation (i.e. high energy photons) to synthesise organic compounds or other metabolites. The mechanism is unknown.

Research also suggests that some fungi are actually attracted towards ionizing radiation sources (hence the name 'radiotrophic'). Example paper : Mycological Research, Volume 108, Issue 9, pp.1089-1096[ paywalled ]

If it's confirmed that the fungi are actually using the radiation - rather than tolerating it - there could be profound implications for the evolution of life in hostile environments.

More info : Wikipedia


[1] A 2020 paper in BioXiv suggests that such fungi might be useful as a protective shield in spacecraft.

[2] It's recently been discovered that some bacteria use radiation as their primary - indeed only - source of energy. To be more specific, they use the by-products of mineral breakdown brought about by natural radiation deep underground - see Deep Carbon life-formsplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigDeep Carbon life-forms

Ongoing research into the prevalence of life-forms (predominantly bacteria and archaea) living deep in the Earth's crust is revealing them in previously unimagined quantities. Some researchers suggest that the biological diversity of deep-carbon organisms exceeds that of those on the surface.
Like the radiotrophic fungi, this has profound implications for theories about the evolution of life.

Also see : Low frequency e/m growth stimulationplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigLow frequency e/m growth stimulation

All plants with chlorophyll utilise high frequency electromagnetic (e/m) radiation, in the form of light, as an essential part of their metabolism. (see Photosynthesis ).

Recent (2020) experiments with Arabidopsis thaliana - a commonly-used botanical research plant - have shown that plants also appear to be able to utilise very much lower frequency (e.g 7MHz) e/m radiation.
and Radiation hormesisplugin-autotooltip__plain plugin-autotooltip_bigRadiation hormesis

"Radiation hormesis proposes that radiation exposure comparable to and just above the natural background level of radiation is not harmful but beneficial, while accepting that much higher levels of radiation are hazardous.


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