Shillong: A team of researchers from India and China went to West Jaintia Hills District, Meghalaya after hearing about "electric mushrooms" from its locals. When they reached the place, they were asked by the local guide to switch off their torches. The scientists were awestruck by looking at the green light glowing amidst the forest, which emerged from dead bamboo sticks that were smothered in tiny mushrooms. Th fungus releases light of its own, and this phenomenon is known as bioluminescence.
The locals of that area use this as their natural torch light to navigate through the forest. The team found out that the stipes of the mushroom lit up. It was later found after testing in the laboratory that it was a new species from the genus Roridomyces. This is the first fungus to be discovered in India from this genus. The member species of this genus are fragile and love moist and humid conditions, said a lead author of the report, Samantha Karunarathna.
Till today, very few glowing fungi species have been found in India. Two from the Western Ghats, one in Kerala, and one in the Eatern Ghats. India has so far documented only about 1900 species of mushroom-forming fungi from India, says a senior scientist from India, CK Pradeep.
The team of scientists has carefully observed the mushrooms and noticed that only the stipes and the mycelia (thread-like strands) in the bamboo glow at night. They are yet to solve the mystery behind it.
The scientists have find out that a total of four enzymes are involved in the fungal bioluminescent pathway. The first one is the luciferase that catalyses the oxidation of the compound luciferin, which results in the emission of light from the plants. Rest of the three enzymes are used to biosynthesis the luciferin.