Andrew Adamatzky, professor of computer science at the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol, published a study in the Royal Society of Open Science in which he found that mushrooms “communicate” with each other in a peculiar language. This communication occurs through electrical signals.
“In our work on deciphering the language of mushrooms, we first looked at whether different types of mushrooms exhibit similar characteristics of electrical activity. And then we characterized the proposed mushroom language by word length and sentence complexity,” says Adamatzky.
Adamatzky says that mushrooms, as “almost living things without a nervous system,” are capable of generating electrical signals. During experiments with mushrooms, he found that oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus djamor) emit electrical signals of high and low frequency, and tinder fungi of the species Ganoderma resinaceum emit electrical signals at intervals of up to 8 minutes.
What’s more, according to Adamatzky, the electrical signals of these mushrooms are similar to those seen in creatures with a central nervous system (animals and humans).
Next, Adamatzky decided to find out if all types of mushrooms are capable of such actions, and he conducted an experiment with an additional four types of mushrooms.
“We recorded the extracellular electrical activity of four fungal species, and we found evidence for the propagation of signaling lines through the fungal mycelium network. We hypothesized that the electrical activity of fungi is a manifestation of ‘information exchange’ between distant parts of fungal colonies.”
In the study, Adamatzky details how he and his team planted electrodes in the ground around four types of mushrooms: honey agaric, finch, Chinese cordyceps, and omfalot. The electrodes were inserted into bundles of fungal mycelium (mycelium), consisting of thin branched filaments – hyphae.
They found that these fungal “roots” seem to “communicate” with each other.
“We found that the distribution of signal lengths is similar to the distribution of word lengths in human languages. And we found that the vocabulary of mushrooms can be up to 50 words. Although their main lexicon of the most frequently used words does not exceed 15-20 words.”
Adamatzky says the most “talkative” mushroom species (of the ones they studied) was Schizophyllum commune, based on the amount of signals it generated.
The scientist noted that the electric flashes of the mushrooms were not random, and therefore he was able to separate groups of similar signals into “words”, and then groups of words into “sentences”.
And by comparing mushroom words with human language, he found that their average word length was similar to the length of words in English and Russian.
In an interview with The Guardian, Adamatzky said he believes mushrooms use their “language” in a similar way to how wolves use their howls to organize in a pack.
For example, some mushroom words can direct the mycelial filaments to nutrients or warn them of danger.
Can mushrooms determine if there is a danger near them in the form of a person picking mushrooms or a pig looking for truffles? Adamatzky admits that he cannot answer this question yet because much more research is needed with mushrooms.