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Enclosed environment

Springbrook Research Centre

Luminous mushrooms

Page last updated 24-Jun-12

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The ongoing study that commenced in 1988 is intended to culminate in :

1. the long term preservation by propagation of the rarer mushroom species, also
2. to endeavour to add debate to and possibly correct some erroneous general published material in which invalid assumptions have been made, and
3. eventually to develop a range of practical bioluminescent applications.
The first task however was to consistently succeed in the most expedient production of the fungi in natural environment applications. 
This has been a slow process depending on the type of timber used, ( 3 years for soft timber and 5 years for hardwood to date from the first log inoculations), although we have settled on soft-hardwood species of timber as the growing medium.

camera3.gif (516 bytes) Composite pic of some of 400 logs inoculated in 2008

No less than five different species of luminous mushroom belonging to the Mycena family have been found in the Springbrook Research Centre study area to date. Four of these are new species that have been studied here and named.

Each species is listed in the table below

More Information  
icon_lampadis.jpg (1450 bytes) Mycena lampadis.[Maguire 1988]
(Status = rare )
(Originally classified for study purposes as Type_B ) this larger mushroom is approximately 30-40mm pileus diameter and tends to be in smaller numbers on logs on the ground in the advanced stage of decomposition of the sapwood.
icon_multessimum.jpg (987 bytes) Mycena multesimum.[Maguire 1988]
(Status = rare )
(Originally classified for study purposes as Type_A )
A smaller luminous mushroom of 10-12mm pileus diameter  that clusters on standing tree bark or damaged trees where the wood is exposed.
icon_minutissimum.jpg (1002 bytes) Mycena minutissimum.[Maguire 2006] 
(Status = rare )
(Originally classified for study purposes as Type_D )
A smaller more delicate luminous mushroom of 5 to 6mm pileus diameter  that appears individually on the rough bark collar of rainforest trees usually close to the ground. It is rarely sighted.
Although similar to Mycena multessimum, it has a different hymenium configuration , a different pileus shape and a shorter stipe length.
icon_delicatum.jpg (6675 bytes) Mycena delicatum [Maguire 2006]
(Status = luminous substrate material common, mushroom sightings rare).
By far the smallest mushroom found here to date has a pileus diameter of 1mm -1.5mm and a variable stipe length of  8 -12mm depending on the moisture content of where it is found growing.
Only grows on decomposing fallen leaf material that we originally described as being luminous
leaf litter.
icon_chlorophanos.jpg (1667 bytes) Mycena .spp or Type_C ( possibly a variant of Mycena chlorophos, but still under study)
(Status = common)
This medium size clustering specimen has a distinctive dark brown cap on the pileus and is the most commonly sighted luminous Mycena in Queensland.  Approximately 15-20mm pileus diameter.

1997. Our luminous mushrooms can be classed as living fossils:

According to Jon Dixon's website  there is evidence of high fungal diversity in the Carboniferous period (circa 360 million years ago) due to reports of clamp connections (thus showing that Basidiomycetes had possibly evolved by this period), zygospores, enclosed fruiting structures and variation of dispersed spores.

Springbrook's larger and smaller luminous mushrooms have been incorrectly identified

The writer refutes the misnomer "Mycena chlorophos" given to our luminous mushroom species by others.
It does not pertain to the Mycena species of luminous mushroom found in this area.
Mycena chlorophos is a northern hemisphere Asian species that is totally different in appearance and size to our
Mycenae species . One pertinent observation highlighting the difference is that unlike Mycena chlorophos, the mycelium of our luminous mushrooms does not display any bioluminescent properties when grown on agar medium.

1997 Note:
The work done by Herring [1978] stated that if the fruiting body (mushroom) was bioluminescent then the mycelial threads were always luminescent as well but not vice versa.
This broad ranging statement may now be in question as our  luminous Mycena species here at Springbrook in Queensland do not display bioluminescent mycelial threads when grown on MYA.
Mycena lampadis and Mycena chlorophanos mycelium does however occasionally display bioluminescent properties during the warm wet summer period at Springbrook after logs that have been inoculated have finished fruiting. 
Our smallest mushroom, Mycena delicatum, in itself being non-bioluminescent does however generate bioluminescence on the forest litter upon which it fruits.

The larger mushroom Mycena lampadis was first discovered on Springbrook by the writer in 1988.
The luminescence (pale green colour) of Mycena lampadis is quite outstanding .
On misty evenings the glow when reflected through the mist gives the appearance of a very large light source.
A single large specimen of this mushroom can produce sufficient light to enable reading a newspaper at night.
These fungi require high humidity and almost complete shade cover to survive and are only found in the wild in the warmer months of the year during the wet season in the Purlingbrook catchment area at Springbrook.

Comparison of local specimens:

A composite photo of  two rarer types of luminous mushroom found at Springbrook. Disregard the colour difference as the two pics were taken at different times under different light conditions.

Click the image for magnified view


spores1_sm.jpg (8106 bytes)        Click the image for larger photo

1997. Spore Release:

Watching spores being released from luminous mushrooms in our enclosed environment would put to rest a common misconception that the mushrooms rely  on insects and gastropods (slugs, snails) to distribute the spores.
The spore release (induced by tapping the pileus with a pencil) was photographed from an elevated specimen in our enclosed environment with the specimen being placed at  1.5 metres above ground level in near still conditions. The only air movement being natural convection as the external wind-driven exhaust fans in the ceiling were not moving at the time of the photograph being taken.
Temperature 25 C. RH 75% 
The spore release very gently wafted a distance of 5 metres slowly rising up into the warmer air close to the ceiling toward the ventilation aperture. This spore trail remained intact before being disturbed by our breathing and movement in our enthusiasm to obtain more photographs.
The spore drift can be likened to a fine smoke trail.
Spore release of  Mycena lampadis.[Maguire 1988] occurs usually on the third or fourth day of development of the fruit body.
If a specimen mushroom is detached from its' growth medium, spore release can prematurely occur within one to two hours.
In the wild I have no doubt that given optimal weather conditions of a warm thermal updraft at the time of a spore release, the spores could easily travel to great heights and distances.

Small insects attracted to luminous mushroom.
Mycena lampadis.[Maguire 1988] luminous mushroom pileus on a glass plate. Note the insects stuck in the sticky fluid that coats the pileus.These insects will not survive. Only insects that approach the mushroom from the underside will successfully feast on the mushroom spores.

Click the image for magnified view

Mycena lampadis.[Maguire 1988] Specimen # 151203: diffused light shot of the underside showing insects eating spores.

Click the image for magnified view


1997. A closer look at one of the luminous mushrooms that didn't glow

For reasons unknown, occasionally clusters of mushrooms germinate on the same log as the luminous mushroom but produce specimens that do not display any bioluminescent properties. These non-luminous mushrooms are identical in appearance to the luminous parent but lack the sticky fluid coating.

Stem Tissue Propagation

Given that the end result of sporing from luminous mushrooms could be unreliable in growing "true-to-type" we elected to use stem tissue propagation of the best specimens for our mycelium production to minimise the risk of wasting 3/5 years growing what may turn out to be non luminescent specimens. See pics of tissue culture

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Looking at the underside with the stipe (stem) cut away , note the hollow stipe section devoid of the sticky secretion that usually spreads across the pileus of the mushroom.
The use of this sticky fluid produced by the mushrooms although as yet undetermined, could be  excreted to cover the pileus as either a UV sun-screening fluid to protect the micro-thin pileus from solar radiation, or to protect the mushroom from being prematurely eaten by insects and gastropods.
Interesting to note that these non-bioluminescent fruitbodies are rarely eaten by nocturnal insects and gastropods that are attracted instead to the bioluminescent fruitbodies on the same logs.
The absence of this sticky fluid on occasional specimens that do not display bioluminescent properties causes premature desiccation of the mushrooms when exposed to sunlight.
Note also the distortion of the hymenium.

Click the image for magnified view

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Micro-thin pileus membrane cut away to expose  the hymenium.
Note the absence of a fluid secretion orifice in the centre of the pileus.


Click the image for magnified view

Large Fungi Predators Whilst crickets and snails are the main fungi predators here, also a huge range of insects and gastropods. Gnats, cockroaches, beetles, slugs and snails also depend on fungi for their food. Below are the major contributors to the nightly feasting on my mushroom farms.  

King Cricket

Differs from the White Kneed cricket (pic below).
The mandibles are much larger and this species attains a body length of 70+mm. In addition to eating fungi, cases have been reported of these crickets overpowering and eating funnel-web spiders, so their diet appears to be quite varied.

Click the image for magnified view
White Kneed cricket (Papuastas.sp) can grow up to 8cm long. They live in smooth-walled burrows in the soil during the day. They pull leaf litter over the entrance of their tunnels to conceal them.
Their hind
legs are very powerful and they can leap several metres if disturbed. They emerge at night to roam the forest floor and feed on decaying organic matter, although in season they prefer luminous mushrooms. They have large, strong jaws which they use to kill small creatures in the leaf litter.

Click the image for magnified view

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Black Cricket

This is the largest specimen of this species found here to date.

Click the image for magnified view
thorny_cricket_035sm.jpg (10416 bytes) Thorny Cricket

Click the image for magnified view

Panda Snail

These giant snails have a voracious appetite for luminous fungi.
I have seen two of these snails devour a 150mm diameter mushroom in a matter of hours.


Click the image for magnified view


Minute Fungi Predators
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Entomobryidae / Collembola 

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Hexapoda
Class: Entognatha (disputed)
Subclass:  Collembola
Order:  Entomobryomorpha
Superfamily: Entomobryoidea
Family: Entomobryidae


Mycelium bug in cultures 03-03-2011

In addition to slugs, snails , crickets, cockroaches, beetles and gnats , we can now add yet another creature to the list of species that depend on luminous mushrooms for their food, a species of springtail (Collembola)

4/0.1x objective pic via microscope/CCD camera of a flea-like bug living in the mycelium in the petrie dishes. As all my petrie dishes are sealed with tape, the bugs or eggs of this bug must have either been in the gills of the mushroom when the spore was collected or on the spores before they were germinated.
They were not noticed during the spore germination process, which leads me to believe that they emerged from eggs as the mycelium grew from the spores.
Being so small (0.1 to 0.2mm approx) the bugs were missed being spotted, but were noticed multiplying in recent mycelia replates. These bugs possibly account for a contamination we had here previously that developed into a black liquid slime mould emerging through the mycelium on the plates as a black bubble. Several infested plates have been treated to exterminate these bugs before any more replating is done.

Click the image for magnified view