IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Meghalaya’s glowing mushrooms


Context: A mushroom documentation project in the forests of Northeast India has revealed not only 600 varieties of fungi, but also led to a new discovery: a bioluminescent — or light emitting — variety of mushroom.

Roridomyces phyllostachydis

  • The new species — named Roridomyces phyllostachydis — was first sighted on a wet August night near a stream in Meghalaya’s Mawlynnong in East Khasi Hills district and later at Krang Shuri in West Jaintia Hills
  • It is now one among the 97 known species of bioluminescent fungi in the world.

What are bioluminescent fungi and why do they glow?

  • Bioluminescence is the property of a living organism to produce and emit light.
  • “Animals, plants, fungi and bacteria show bioluminescence,”.
  • “Bioluminescent organisms are usually found in the ocean environments, but they are also found on terrestrial environments.
  • The colour of the light emitted by the organism depends on their chemical properties.”
  • In the case of fungi, the luminescence comes from the enzyme, luciferase.
  • Bioluminescence attracts insects, which helps in dispersing spores,”.

  • It may also be a mechanism for the organism to protect itself from frugivorous (or fruit-eating) animals.