Even if mushrooms aren’t exactly your thing, there’s just something about the kingdom of fungi that is incredibly mindboggling and cool.
A bunch of mycologists, which are basically people that are experts in the branch of biology that concerns fungi, are studying the underground filaments of fungi while observing the electrical signals similar to the nervous system, which is considered a normal phenomenon. But what’s not is that the biologists discovered that these signals were incredibly similar to human language.
They explain that ‘when filaments called ‘hyphae’ of a wood-digesting fungal species discover a bit of wood to munch on underground,’ the hyphae actually start to light up with “spikes” of electrical signals which in return, reach out to the hyphae of other individuals, including trees.
Professor Andrew Adamatsky from the University of the West of England wrote in a paper published on the investigations, “Spikes of electrical potential are typically considered to be key attributes of neurons, and neuronal spiking activity is interpreted as a language of a nervous system.”
“However, almost all creatures without nervous system produce spikes of electrical potential,” he added.
In order to figure out what characteristics these electrical impulse spikes share with the nervous system language of other lifeforms, Adamatzky decided to place tiny electrodes into pieces of material, and they were feeding four particular species: split gill, ghost, enoki, and caterpillar fungi.
As Compared to Humans
As shared in a report in GNN, ‘the authors set the electrical spikes against a series of human linguistic phenomena that were used to successfully decode part of the carved language of the Picts, the Bronze Age people of Scotland.’ When it comes to human-expressed vowels, the average length is between 300 and 70 milliseconds, which the scientists assumed that if there was a 0 millisecond break between the spikes, that it was part of the same “word.”
They also found that the C.militaris fungi had trains of electrical spikes for almost the same length to English words. They saw that the ‘split gill fungi spikes were even more closely identical to the average world length in the Greek language. Around fifty ‘words’ could be identified based on repetition.’
Adamatzky shared, “Assuming that spikes of electrical activity are used by fungi to communicate and process information in mycelium networks, we group spikes into words and provide a linguistic and information complexity analysis of the fungal spiking activity. We demonstrate that distributions of fungal word lengths match that of human languages.”
The author also shares that the split gill fungus formed the most complex “sentence structures,” which Professor Adamatzky explains that the most likely purpose for this electrical dialogue is ‘to keep integrity between the parts of the mycelium.’ Mycelia happens to make up over 90% of the total biomass of fungi, whose filaments can stretch for over hundreds of feet, as it connects trees, other plants, and other fungi, and as a result, keeping the mycelia merged. He goes on to explain that it’s similar to the way wolves howl to keep their pack members united.
Some scientists share that they are very skeptical about the research, claiming that it was done looking for ‘language,’ meaning that the outcome of the study was slightly exaggerated with some over enthusiasm over the findings.
But according to Adamatzky, as explained to The Guardian, it could be that ‘the electrically-charged tips of hyphae were just creating electromagnetic reactions as they explore the forest underground.’
Notably, this isn’t the first paper that suggests life outside of Animalia kingdom have the ability to communicate with language. Peter Wohlleben, who was a tree scientist, also believes that trees produced scents rather than words, and that soon a computer will be able to decipher and attach “purposes” to these scents, which will then be translated into words.
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