Mushrooms have been recorded talking, with one scientist noting that they can communicate using a language similar to that of humans.
Over the past decade, researchers have found evidence that plants are able to communicate.
Research published in 2019 even suggested that they “scream” when cut. Fungi are neither plants nor animals, but belong to their own kingdom. These include yeasts, molds and fungi.
Andrew Adamatzky, from the Unconventional Computing Laboratory at the University of the West of England in Bristol, said he started looking for language in fungi out of curiosity.
He’d previously found that slime molds showed obvious cognitive abilities through spikes in electrical activity, so he wanted to see if fungi did the same thing.
In his current position, Adamatzky creates prototype devices using biological, chemical and physical substrates.
If he wanted to create a mushroom-based computing device, he would need to understand how information is transmitted from them.
Another part of his work is creating building structures from substrates colonized by fungi: “Some parts of the substrate contain living mycelium, which will be responsible for recognizing environmental cues and making decisions about the environment,” he said news week. “This will happen through electrical activity.”
In his latest study, Adamatzky collected four different types of fungi. These were Ghost Mushrooms, Enoki Mushrooms, Cleavage Mushrooms and Caterpillar Mushrooms. He pricked the samples with electrodes and recorded changes in electrical activity.
His findings published in the journal Open Science of the Royal Societyshowed large trains of electrical spikes, comparable to neurons.
Adamatzky then compared these spikes to those seen in human speech and found similarities. “I reconstructed [the] possible syntax of the mushroom language,” he said.
The study showed that the spikes resemble vocabularies of around 50 words, with word lengths similar to human speech.
There were differences in language complexity between species, with ghost mushrooms and fissured mushrooms having larger lexicons.
Adamatzky said the mushrooms could say several things. They can tell each other their presence in the same way wolves howl, or they could tell other parts of the mycelium — the root-like structure of a fungus — about the presence of attractants or repellents.
“There’s also another option — they don’t say anything,” he said.
“Peaks of the expanding mycelium are electrically charged, and therefore when the charged tips pass a pair of differential electrodes, a spike in the potential difference is recorded.”
In the study, Adamatzky said there are multiple directions for the research.
The language differences between the species could be examined as well as the potential for a fungal grammar system. He said more fungal species needed to be studied to understand the variation in language.
“Probably the most important direction for future research would be a thorough and detailed classification of fungal words derived from the row of spines,” he wrote.
“Right now we’ve only classified the word based on a series of spikes in the appropriate moves. This is a fairly primitive classification in fact, akin to interpreting binary words based only on the sum of their bits and not on the exact configurations of 1 and 0.
“Nevertheless, we shouldn’t expect quick results: we have yet to decipher the language of cats and dogs, despite having lived with them for centuries, and research into electrical communication in fungi is still in its infancy.”