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Dining Dilemma: Why Mycelium Might Just Get Bored of Its Diet

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

The fungal kingdom, often shrouded in mystery, has long intrigued scientists and enthusiasts alike. Among its many enigmatic qualities lies a curious phenomenon: fungal senescence. While fungi are commonly celebrated for their modular nature and seemingly boundless expansion capabilities, some species exhibit signs of aging that challenge our understanding of these organisms.

Picture this: a thriving mycelial network, a web of fungal threads interwoven with life. It's a testament to nature's design, where growth begets reproduction, ensuring a lasting generational legacy. However, as we delve deeper into the intricate world of fungi, we discover a twist in the narrative.

Imagine feeding the same substrate to a mycelial network over an extended period. What we find is a curious consequence – the mycelium may cease to produce the essential enzymes needed to digest alternative substances. In essence, it becomes a picky eater.

Peter McCoy, the visionary founder of Radical Mycology, sheds light on this peculiar phenomenon. He dubs it "senescence." In the realm of sterile mycelial cultures, senescence takes center stage. Here, metabolic pathways shut down, mirroring a lack of novelty and external stimuli. It's as if the mycelium grows weary of its monotonous diet and decides to hit the brakes on its ceaseless expansion.

One can't help but draw parallels between this fungal fatigue and the human experience – a moment when the thrill of the new fades and routines become mundane. Yes, even mycelium experiences its moments of existential ennui.

As we navigate this fascinating facet of mycology, one question lingers: Can we truly comprehend the intricate world of fungi, or will its secrets forever elude us?

For a deeper dive into this captivating world, explore the works of those who dare to decode it:

Peter McCoy: @petermycco

Radical Mycology: @radmycology

And, in a mesmerizing visual journey, witness the dynamic life of mycelium through the lens of time-lapse photography by @boomershroomer.v2 and Dr. Anne van Diepeningen's striking capture of Podospora anserina mycelium strain, which halted its growth at the three-week mark.

In the grand tapestry of life, fungi continue to be a source of wonder and intrigue. As we ponder the mysteries of fungal senescence, we find ourselves on a journey that mirrors the very cycles of life and growth in the natural world.


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