The Fungi That Ate Chernobyl

Gamma radiation: It’s what’s for dinner.

I wonder how you say, “Don’t make me angry, Mr. Mcgee, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” in Russian?

I don’t know what to say except that’s really cool if true.

You better watch out for
the fungi that ate Chernobyl
For it may eat your city soon
(wacka-doo, wacka-doo, wacka-doo)
You better watch out for
the fungi that ate Chernobyl
If it’s still hungry,
The whole world is doomed!

Does this mean the truffle market will take off?

Taking nutrition from gamma radiation is neat, but not precisely what I’d call unprecedented. What the linked article doesn’t make clear to me is whether the effect of the melanin gammasynthesis is to also protect the fungi from the gamma radiation. IOW, how much of a shielding effect does this have for the organism’s cellular function?

Fungus Banner, belted by gamma rays
Turns into the Mold! Ain’t he unglamou-rays
Wreckin’ the town with the power of a mould
Ain’t no mushroom crowned who is that loveable
As ever-lovin’ Mold!.. Mold! Mold!

According to the NPR piece I heard about this, the dosage levels where the stuff’s growing are lethal to humans, but it would take something like a million times that amount to kill the fungus. Also, the fungus is NOT radioactive.


That goes without saying. A little ignorance fighting here - there’s really only one kind of radiation that will make things radioactive: neutron fluxes. Alpha, beta and gamma rays all can cause radiation damage, but they don’t actually activate (make the exposed materiel radioactive.) what they irradiate. Now, WRT Chernobyl area materiels, those from the area are likely going to be contaminated, but that’s not the same thing as being inherently radioactive. It’s that there’s a lot of dust there that’s still blowing around with things that came out of the plant when it burned.

Не рассердите меня. Я бы не вам понравиться когда я сердитый.

That puts emphasis on “you” rather than “like”, as in somebody would like me when I’m angry, but not you Mr. Mcgee.

“Не серди меня. Тебе я не понравлюсь, если я рассержусь.”

Not unprecedented? This is the first time I’d heard of it. That was the first question raised in my mind, whether the fugi had ever relied on radiation as an energy source somewhere in nature, or if this was new. Also the article doesn’t make clear just how much of the energy comes from the radiation. It just said they grew “significantly faster.”

riker1384, what I’d meant to allude to is that photosynthesis - the capture of photonic energy to convert to chemical energy for biological processes - is simply using far lower energy gamma rays that those that this fungi can use to synthesize usable energy.

I can’t say that I know of any other organism that’s using such high energy photons for an energy source, but if you’ll grant me that there’s little qualatative difference between photons, utilizing different capture dyes to better harvest different wavelengths of light is a long recognized biological trait.

Now, if you want to claim that having a fungi doing what can be described as photosynthesis is unprecendented, I’m not sure I can disagree - I certainly don’t know of any other examples. But I will stand by my belief that the difference between chlorophyl photosyntheis and melanin gammasynthesis is it’s simply a new photo-sensitive dye being used to capture the energy.

Here’s a link to an interview with the discoverer that has more info on the fungus.

Of course, the fact that the article is attributed to Richards, R., and Banner, D. B., with assistance from Storm, S. and J., Grimm, B., and Parker, P., might cause minor skepticism! :wink:

Oh, c’mon, this is old news. Back in the 50’s there were a whole bunch of documentaries about animals, even people, grown to enormous size after nuclear blasts. Ants, spiders, army colonels, etc.

Here’s a link to the original paper.

So does this harbinger the use of radiation-eating fungi to clean up radioactive waste? Because that would make it go from beyond cool to really, really valuable.

As long as the fungi don’t grow to people-eating size. :eek:

According to the NPR piece, that’s a distinct possibility.

I know this isn’t an amusing comment in the vein of most of this thread, but it would be nice if something good came out of Chernobyl. Because that was a real tragedy. :frowning:

Parasitic life form that feeds off energy from humans?