Here's the secret of glow-in-the-dark mushrooms not so magical after all
Cassius Stevani has foraged for glow-in-the-dark fungi in remote rain forests for 17 years. Looking down at these bioluminescent fungi in a dark forest can often feel like gazing out over the lights of a big city from an airplane window. It’s a strange and magical experience that has captured people’s imaginations for literally thousands of years, dating back to Aristotle’s description of foxfire. In this tradition of scientific curiosity, Stevani and his colleagues have spent years investigating the chemical building blocks of these strange and magical mushrooms. Scientists often suspected that the 80 known species of bioluminescent fungi shared similar chemical properties with bioluminescent insects, bacteria, and some underwater animals, and now they have a much better idea of what’s really going on inside the cells of these glowing fungi. In addition to gaining a greater understanding of how the natural world functions, with this knowledge, scientists could use the chemicals in bioluminescent mushrooms to develop new imaging technologies for biology and chemistry research.