Photographer Jürgen Freund
THIS haunting shot of a bioluminescent fungus may seem otherworldly, but you can witness the astonishing sight in forests here on Earth. The photo was taken in the Atherton Tableland plateau in Queensland, Australia, by nature photographer Jürgen Freund.
This species is probably Omphalotus nidiformis, otherwise known as the ghost fungus, so-named for its characteristic glow-in-the-dark properties. It is one of more than 100 known fungus species that bioluminesce, or generate their own light.
The ghost fungus actually glows continuously, as a compound within O. nidiformis called luciferin – the same substance that makes fireflies shine – reacts with the enzyme luciferase and oxygen.
The evolutionary benefit of the glow of the ghost fungus and other species like it is unclear. One theory is that the light attracts insects, which help the fungus to disperse its spores more widely and colonise additional regions of rainforest. But it could simply be an incidental by-product of metabolism.
Freund’s image was highly commended in the Plants and Fungi category of this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, organised by the Natural History Museum in London.
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