Scientists Discover Fungus That Collects Gold From Its Environment
by Meilan Solly Smithsonian.con
A fluffy pink fungus with long, thread-like tendrils encrusted in gold particles could help prospectors mine the precious element, a team of Australian researchers report in the journal Nature Communications.
As Mindy Weisberger explains for Live Science, the fungus—a strain of the species Fusarium oxysporum—relies on chemical interactions with underground minerals to collect gold from its surroundings. The organism then oxidizes gold before using yet another chemical to transform the dissolved element into tiny, nanoscale particles of solid gold. Gold particles produced by this process cling to the fungus, enabling spores to grow faster and larger than their non-gold covered counterparts.
The team suspects that gold also serves as a catalyst, helping the fungus digest certain carbon foods, as the study’s lead author Tsing Bohu, a geo-microbiologist at Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, explained in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Company’s Anna Salleh. Moving forward, Bohu says the researchers hope to use the fungus, which was found in the gold fields of western Australia, as a tracker of sorts. If spores are present in a certain area, for instance, miners may be able to narrow down the locations in which they undertake exploratory drilling.