SF State News {University Communications}

Image: Photos of SF State students and scenes from around campus

New glowing mushroom species named after Mozart's Requiem

October 7, 2009 -- SF State Professor of Biology Dennis Desjardin has discovered seven new glow-in-the-dark mushroom species, increasing the number of known luminescent fungi species from 64 to 71. He has named two of the new species after movements in Mozart's Requiem -- Mycena luxaeterna (eternal light) and Mycena luxperpetua (perpetual light) -- names which reflect that the mushrooms glow 24 hours a day.

Above: A slideshow of six photos of Dennis Desjardin's most recently discovered glow-in-the-dark mushrooms. Slideshow requires Flash Player. Download Flash Player.


Desjardin and colleagues discovered the fungi in Belize, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Japan, Malaysia and Puerto Rico. The discoveries include four species new to science and three new reports of luminescence in known species. Three-quarters of glowing mushrooms, including the species described in the study, belong to the Mycena genus, a group of mushrooms that feed off and decompose organic matter as a source of nutrients to sustain their growth.

These latest findings shed light on the evolution of luminescence, adding to the number of known lineages in the fungi family tree where luminescence has been reported. "What interests us is that within Mycena, the luminescent species come from 16 different lineages, which suggests that luminescence evolved at a single point and some species later lost the ability to glow," Desjardin said. He believes some fungi glow to attract nocturnal animals that aid in the dispersal of the mushroom's spores, which are similar to seeds and are capable of growing into new organisms.

To date, Desjardin has discovered more than 200 new fungi species and together with these latest findings, has discovered nearly a quarter of all known luminescent fungi. "It's pretty unusual to find this many luminescent species, typically only two to five percent of the species we collect in the field glow," Desjardin said. "I'm certain there are more out there."

Listen to Lux Aeterna, the movement in Mozart's Requiem which inspired the name for one of Desjardin's newly discovered species: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiMRtdv3yCI

-- Elaine Bible


Share this story:



SF State Home