Entangled Life - How Fungi make our worlds, change our minds & shape our futures
How much do I want to read more? 8/10
Definitely informative and fascinating.
INTRODUCTION - WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A FUNGUS?
FUNGI ARE EVERYWHERE but they are easy to miss. They are inside you and around you. They sustain you and all that you depend on.
As you read these words, fungi are changing the way that life happens, as they have done for more than a billion years. They are eating rock, making soil, digesting pollutants, nourishing and killing plants, surviving in space, inducing visions, producing food, making medicines, manipulating animal behavior, and influencing the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Fungi provide a key to understanding the planet on which we live, and the ways that we think, feel, and behave. Yet they live their lives largely hidden from view, and over ninety percent of their species remain undocumented.
Microscopic yeasts are fungi, as are the sprawling networks of honey fungi, or Armillaria, which are among the largest organisms in the world.
The current record holder, in Oregon, weighs hundreds of tons, spills across ten square kilometers, and is somewhere between two thousand and eight thousand years old.
There are few pockets of the globe where fungi can’t be found; from deep sediments on the seafloor, to the surface of deserts, to frozen valleys in Antarctica, to our guts and orifices.
The ability of fungi to prosper in such a variety of habitats depends on their diverse metabolic abilities. Metabolism is the art of chemical transformation. Fungi are metabolic wizards and can explore, scavenge, and salvage ingeniously, their abilities rivaled only by bacteria.
Using cocktails of potent enzymes and acids, fungi can break down some of the most stubborn substances on the planet, from lignin, wood’s toughest component, to rock; crude oil; polyurethane plastics; and the explosive TNT.
A species isolated from mining waste is one of the most radiation-resistant organisms ever discovered and may help to clean up nuclear waste sites. The blasted nuclear reactor at Chernobyl is home to a large population of such fungi.
Some even appear to be able to harness radiation as a source of energy, as plants use the energy in sunlight.