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Fake mushroom experiment reveals why some fungi glow in the dark

Why some mushrooms are bioluminescent remains uncertain, but a study using LED lights adds to the evidence they attract insects that help the fungus disperse its spores

Life 24 January 2023

Bioluminescent fungi

Bioluminescent ghost fungus in Queensland, Australia

Juergen Freund / naturepl.com

Why do some mushrooms glow in the dark? A study involving real bioluminescent mushrooms and fake ones with LED lights has added to the evidence that the light attracts insects such as flies.

“The light serves to attract potential spore dispersers,” says Catherine Adams at the University of California, Berkeley. These animals probably eat some of the spores, she says, but as mushrooms produce billions of spores, they can sacrifice some to help spread others more widely.

Very few studies have ever to tried to …