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Title: Function of bioluminescence in fungi
Abstract: Bioluminescence, the emission of light by living organisms, affords insight into the lives of the organisms doing it. Luminous living things are widespread in the world, occurring in diverse forms of life with particular morphologies and accessing very different mechanisms to generate and control light emission. Bioluminescent fungi are mostly found in the tropics and are phylogenetically exceedingly rare – only 102 species are known (all within the Agaricales) from among an anticipated >5 million fungal species. All emit green light (?max 530 nm) at the expense of either NADH or NADPH, and have been believed to do so continuously implying a metabolic function for bioluminescence, perhaps as a by-product of the oxidative metabolism required for lignin degradation. In this talk is presented that bioluminescence from the mycelium of Neonothopanus gardneri is controlled by a temperature compensated circadian clock, the result of cycles in content/activity of the luciferase, hydroxylase, and the luciferin that comprise the luminescent system. Because biological regulation implies an adaptive function for bioluminescence beyond being a metabolic by-product, evidence were sought for interactions between luminescent fungi and arthropods. Prosthetic acrylic resin «mushrooms» illuminated with a green LED emitting light at intensities and wavelengths similar to the bioluminescence are seen to attract staphilinid rove beetles (coleopterans) as well as hemipterans (true bugs), dipterans (flies), and hymenopterans (wasps and ants) at numbers far greater than dark control traps. Light thus attracts insects that can in turn help in spore dispersal, a behavior beneficial to fungi growing under the forest canopy where wind flow is greatly reduced.