Bioluminescent Fungus Rediscovered in Brazil

Posted on July 6, 2011

Neonothopanus gardneri


A bioluminescent fungus not seen since 1840 has been rediscovered. San Francisco State University researcher Dennis Desjardin and colleagues collected new specimens of this forgotten mushroom and reclassified it as, Neonothopanus gardneri.

To catch the green glow of the bioluminescent mushroom, Desjardin and research partner, Dr. Cassius Stevani, had to "go out on new moon nights and stumble around in the forest, running into trees." They also had to avoid poisonous snakes and prowling jaguars.

Researchers believe the fungi make light in the same way that a firefly does, through a chemical mix of a luciferin compound and a luciferase. However, scientists have yet to identify the luciferin and luciferase in fungi.

Desjardin says, "They glow 24 hours a day, as long as water and oxygen are available. But animals only produce this light in spurts. This tells us that the chemical that is acted upon by the enzyme in mushrooms has to be readily available and abundant."

Photo: Cassius V. Stevani/IQ-USP, Brazil