Manner of Mushrooms

Almost all of Earth’s organisms “speak” with one another in varying degrees of communication. Just recently, a study by Royal Society Open Science may have unearthed a surprising participant in transmission.

Computer scientist Andrew Adamatzky from the University of West England studied four different species of mushrooms by inserting microelectrodes into the surrounding soil which was populated by the mushrooms’ roots known as mycelium. The mycelium is composed of small fibers which are called hyphae which can be compared to nerve cells in the human nervous system. Upon review of his recordings, Adamatzky found electrical impulses which varied by amplitude, duration, and frequency. Mathematical analysis revealed these spikes have a close association with human speech with signals being formed into groups of “words” and “sentences”.

“There’s a big body of evidence that’s growing that these hyphae are sending some kinds of signals between individuals… communicating about where resources are, where food is…” said Adamatzky.

While complexity of “sentence” structure varied between species of mushrooms, it was recorded that their vocabulary can reach as high as 50 words which is on par with a one-year-old child, though only 15 – 20 words are frequently used. These fungal words are also very much alike in length to English words. The electrical spike average of a fungal word being 5.97 compared to an average English word length of 4.8. While Adamatzky believes these electrical waves serve to protect the mushroom’s integrity and do not appear to be random, he admits the possibility the signals could be meaningless in terms of communication. Regardless, it is an intriguing discovery that has much more research needed before it can be officially claimed as a new language of fungi.