The fungi are a new species to science, as well as the first report of the genus, Roridomyces, in India Credit: Stephen Axford

The vast jungles of Northeast India are a hub of diverse flora and fauna for scientists to find newer species. The latest in line is a mushroom that glows and found in the Meghalaya forests.

After locals reported of ‘electric mushrooms’, a group of scientists from Balipara Foundation and Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences did a fungal foray in Northeast to assess fungal biodiversity of the region. Internationally-acclaimed fungi photographer Steve Axford and videographer Catherine Marciniak also accompanied them.

During the assessment, Balipara Foundation documented over 600 fungal varieties with 34 species of fungi that are possibly new to science, including an extremely bright, luminous mushroom.

The team found an interesting bioluminescent fungus growing on dead bamboo stems was collected from bamboo forests in the East Khasi and West Jayantia Hills. This comes as a reason to rejoice as there are only 97 species of known bioluminescent fungi worldwide.

Also, since they have wide application in medicine, agriculture and ecological environment sensors, bioluminescent fungi have always received great attention.

Gautam Baruah from Balipara Foundation research team said, “Based on the information we received from locals in Meghalaya, about a mushroom that glows at night, called as “electric mushroom” by the locals, we did multiple nights scouting in the forests of Meghalaya. One fine night in the West Jaintia Hills Districts of Meghalaya on 23rd August 2018, we discovered amazing luminous mushrooms with the help of locals. We picked up some dead bamboo sticks and observed closely, the stipeses of the tiny mushrooms on the bamboo were glowing in green. Steve prepared a small outdoor studio and took some wonderful pictures in the dark. By looking at the morphology of the mushroom, we identified it preliminary as Mycena or Roridomyces.”

“This new species Roridomyces phyllostachydis is very unique, compared to other species in the genus since only the stipe of the mushroom is bioluminiscent. Why only the stipe is bioluminescent in this mushroom is still a mystery,” said Samantha Karunarathna, Lead mycologist from Kunming Institute of Botany.

The research results were published in the journal PHYTOTAXA under the title “Roridomyces phyllostachydis (Agaricales, Mycenaceae), a new bioluminescent fungus from Northeast India”.

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