6 Weird Mushrooms (And Other Fungi)

[♪ INTRO] There’s more to mushrooms than the cute
button varieties you find at your local grocery store. The word “fungus” describes a whole kingdom
of organisms that are neither plant nor animal. It includes chanterelles and shiitakes, but
also molds and yeasts. Mushrooms are the part of the fungus that
spreads its spores in order to reproduce. And there are some really strange examples
of fungi and their fruiting bodies out there. They’re not just interesting looking, either. Some have the power to trick animals into
caring for them, or even clean up radiation. So here are six weird mushrooms and other
fungi, and what sets them apart from regular garden
fare. The first fungus on our list has a pretty
clever survival technique. The genus Fibularhizoctonia, also known as
the cuckoo fungus, hides itself in piles of termite eggs by mimicking
their size and color. Its little round balls aren’t technically
mushrooms. They’re actually the fungus’s sclerotia
form. That’s a resting state that will eventually
sprout a new colony when conditions are right. By making itself look like termite eggs, the
fungus ensures it’s safe until it’s time to sprout. See, termites will pile all their eggs together
in one place and groom and lick them to protect them from dryness and infection. By hiding in the heap, the fungal termite
balls get the same protection. But it’s not just a matter of looking
like a termite egg. The cuckoo fungus smells like them too. To blend in, the fungi make an enzyme called
beta-glucosidase. This same enzyme is made by termite eggs to
help adults recognize them. And in an experiment from 2000, termites didn’t care for glass beads resembling
termite eggs unless they were coated in egg-recognition
chemicals. Researchers have found that multiple species
of fungus can all hide away in the same termite mound; all it takes is looking and smelling similar
enough. There’s just one catch to all this protection: the fungal balls can’t sprout with worker
termites around. Researchers think that maybe the termite’s
saliva keeps them from growing somehow. When the termites run out of food and relocate
to a new colony, they carry their own eggs,and the fungus,
with them. And then the fungus can sprout. It’s a handy way for the fungus to hitch
a ride and set up camp in a brand new location before
its competitors get there. This next fungus on the list sounds and looks
positively frightening. But it turns out, all its weirdness is just
a mushroom living its life. The bleeding tooth fungus gets its name in
part from the teeth-shaped structures on its underside. In fact, all members of the hydnoid family
of fungi have these structures, not just the bleeding tooth. Most mushrooms use gills or pores to release
their spores. You can easily spot the gills if you flip
over a portobello. But hydnoids use teeth instead.
And the bleeding part? That dark red liquid oozing from the mushroom’s
top is actually because of the fungus’s internal
transportation system. See, fungi transport nutrients and water up from
the soil through root-like structures called hyphae. Under the right conditions, pressure can build
up in the hyphae and push fluid up and out of the pores on
the mushroom’s surface. Although there haven’t been any studies
to figure out exactly why the fluid is red, one fungi expert we asked thinks the mushroom
might add red pigments to attract insects that help spread its spores; the same insects that are also attracted to
red flowers. Not creepy and bleeding at all! One of the other cool things about these fungi is how they get their nutrients in the first
place. Bleeding tooth fungi are mycorrhizal, meaning they form symbiotic relationships
with trees like pine or spruce. The fungi get carbohydrates from the trees
and, in return, they give the tree nitrogen and phosphorus. And you could say it’s quite an intimate
relationship. The fungus’s hyphae grow as a layer on the
outside of the tree’s root tips, actually growing in between the tree’s cells, so they can easily hand nutrients back and
forth with one another. I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with having
a gruesome-looking fungus latched on to me. But it seems to work out just fine for the
trees! When you think of a wild mushroom, chances
are you picture something like the Fly Agaric. And I know we’re supposed to be talking
about weird mushrooms, but stick with me. This iconic mushroom is depicted in everything
from Germanic Christmas decorations to Super Mario. But its recognizability has as much to do
with its chemistry as it does aesthetics. See, the Fly Agaric’s name may not actually
refer to insects. Instead, it may be related to an older usage
of the word ‘fly’, which could refer to madness or possession. That’s because the world’s prettiest, most stereotypical
mushroom has hallucinogenic properties. But they’re also kind of toxic, so just
in case we have to say it, don’t. There are accounts dating back to at least
the 18th century, and perhaps much earlier, of European and Asian peoples using the mushrooms
in religious rituals. If ingested, the mushrooms cause confusion,
dizziness, space distortion, unawareness of time and hallucinations, followed
by drowsiness and fatigue. The two main compounds responsible are muscimol
and ibotenic acid. They have a chemical structure that’s really
similar to the neurotransmitter GABA. And they act in kind of the same way to make neurons in the spinal cord and brain
less likely to fire. Which has kind of a calming effect. But they also explain the mushroom’s psychedelic
effects. Muscimol and ibotenic acid trigger the release
of additional neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which give those happy
feelings. At least that’s what the mice studies have
shown. The funny thing is, these mushrooms are actually
trying not to be eaten. Their distinctive red and white color is a
warning to animals that, hey, I’m toxic! Seems one creature’s warning system is another’s
video game powerup. This next group of fungi have earned the nickname
‘Hulk bugs’. That’s because they seem to have the ability
to absorb radiation. These superhero fungi have been found in areas
with some seriously high levels of radiation, like inside the damaged nuclear reactor at
Chernobyl and even hanging out on the outsides of spacecraft. Some fungi on the outskirts of Chernobyl even
grow towards the source of radiation. Hence their name, radiotropic fungi; tropism being a term for when an organism
turns towards a particular stimulus. But radiation is nasty stuff for most living
things, given its ability to shred DNA. So how can these fungi tolerate it? Some fungi, like black yeast, can protect
themselves by using the radiation to activate particular genes related to DNA
repair and defense. These fungi seem to have a sensor for detecting
UV light, which can also cause DNA damage. And that sensor may be picking up radiation
and turning on DNA repair. And they don’t just absorb it and cope. The radiation actually helps some fungi grow
stronger. For example, when black yeast was exposed
to low doses of radiation over 24 hours in the lab, it grew 30 percent
more cells, and those cells were larger than the ones
that hadn’t been exposed to radiation. And the single-celled fungus Cryptococcus
neoformans grew faster when exposed to high levels of gamma radiation
in the lab. Scientists think this might have to do with
melanin in the fungi’s cell walls. Yes, the same pigment that gives our skin
its color. They think melanin might be acting in a similar
way to other biological pigments like chlorophyll to turn radiation into usable
energy. When researchers exposed fungi containing
melanin to gamma rays, they found an increase in cellular energy
production. But not all fungi found in radioactive areas
have melanin, so there may be something else going on that
we don’t understand yet. And it would be a good thing to investigate, since some radiotropic fungi may have the
ability to decompose and decontaminate radioactive material, meaning they could be used for environmental
cleanups. Two fungi are doing just that with the debris
at Chernobyl. But scientists don’t yet whether the fungi
retain the radioactive particles or spit them back out into the environment
somehow, which is to say, more research is needed to
see if they can truly decontaminate radiation. Still, maybe we should rename them Captain
Planet bugs? Speaking of names, you can learn a lot about
the fungi in this next group from both their scientific and common names. Their family name, Phallaceae, alludes to
these fungus’s distinctive shape. But that’s not the whole story. These mushrooms actually come in a wide variety
of forms, from geometric, to alien looking, to something
quite beautiful. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why these
fungi take so many different shapes, but some have speculated that it might increase
the mushrooms’ surface area to help spread their spores. That’s where this family’s other name
comes in: Stinkhorn fungi. They secrete a foul-smelling slime that reeks
of rotting flesh thanks to a chemical called dimethyl trisulfide. The same chemical is given off by necrotic
wounds. This attracts flies that gobble up the slime,
as well as a bunch of spores. The flies then spread those spores to another
location when they poop, helping the mushrooms reproduce. And it’s not just flies that are interested
in this mushroom as a snack. Despite its horrid odor, pickled stinkhorn
eggs are a delicacy in China and Europe. One species, the bridal veil stinkhorn, is
dried and eaten on special occasions in China. Once dried they apparently smell more earthy,
musty or almondy than putrid, and when cooked have a nice umami flavor. So, don’t judge a mushroom by its smell
I guess? Lion’s Mane sounds like something you might
add to a potion. And it kind of is. This fluffy, white mushroom is edible; it’s said to have a fleshy texture and seafood-like
taste. It’s been used in Chinese medicine for centuries
as an antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-aging supplement. Claims abound in support of the beneficial
properties of the various chemicals found within lion’s mane mushrooms. And there seems to be some evidence to support
these claims. One group of compounds, the hericerins, slows
the growth of cancer cells. Another, belonging to a class of chemicals
called polysaccharides, stimulates immune responses by activating
the body’s defensive cells. And in a double blind study from 2008, elderly people who took tablets containing
the dry mushroom powder scored better on a test of cognitive function after 16 weeks
than those who received a placebo. But before you start stockpiling Lion’s
Mane, you should know there are a few snags. For one, a lot of these studies were done
in vitro, that is, with a culture dish of cells rather
than an actual person. And others were done on rodents. There’s a big difference between rodents
and people, and between cells and full-blown human bodies, so the effects probably aren’t as staggering
as some people might have you believe. Still, if there’s a silver lining, it’s
that this mushroom still tastes pretty good. These magnificent mushrooms and fancy fungi
all stand out for different reasons, but it goes to show that there’s a lot more
going on than what’s in your backyard. Unless there’s stinkhorns in your backyard. Those things smell terrible. I’m so sorry. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow. If this list piqued your interest, there’s a whole episode of our spin-off podcast
SciShow Tangents about the fungus among us. And that’s just one of the lightly competitive,
science poem-filled topics on offer. It’s brought to you by the same super smart
people who make SciShow, as well as Complexly and WNYC Studios. Check it out wherever you find podcasts. [♪ OUTRO]

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100 Responses

  1. Alex Ocasio-Gomez says:

    Mushrooms can also eat vermiculite and dissolve aluminum.

  2. edi says:

    7:35 and 2:12 creep me out.

  3. Tobias Rath says:

    You’re hands are distracting

  4. Tobias Rath says:

    Cool vid though

  5. Gajanan Nigade says:

    Mario and Luigi want to know your location.

  6. Kiréalta says:

    CooCoo? It's Cuckoo. They literally say it lol.

  7. rmt3589 says:

    So, stinkhorn is edible! I'll have to find some.

  8. Basti378 says:

    Exposing fungi to radiation in a lab sounds like the perfect plot for a disaster story

  9. Kristopher Fendt says:

    I have stinkhorns in my yard they freaking suck

  10. Alex Baldwin says:

    Friendly reminder that nearly 100% of the surface of both the outside AND inside of your body is covered in yeast, which is a fungus! 🙂

  11. Isaiah Chester says:

    You can find and buy lions mane in VT, pretty yummy. Also morel mushrooms!

  12. YouGottaMineDeep says:

    Fun guys may be parasites. Beware

  13. Big daddy Shark says:

    I have a shirt that says come blow my stink horn and on the back it says it will be our little secret

  14. Damien Baranowski says:

    Why are there 80 dislikes?

  15. Semirotta says:

    Radiotrophic fungi. . . We have to stop this from happening :'D soon we have monster mushrooms enslaving mankind

  16. Cameron Eridan says:

    I don't think that it's that likely the "fly" in fly agaric means mad considering that the polish name for them, Muchomor, means Fly-Killer, and the german one, Fliegenpilz, means Fly-Mushroom. Mucha and Fliege have no connection with madness as far as I can tell…

  17. Chelsea Ibe says:

    The bleeding tooth fungus looks delicious ?

  18. Olwydd says:

    People have studied termites caressing and licking mushrooms, found out they smell like termite eggs and even followed where they go afterwards. ?

    opens biology book

  19. tawon1984 says:

    Does anyone know the fungus is that grows in a cluster and is brown? If disturbed it shoots off a brown cloud of smoke.

  20. BugsyPlays says:

    Has there really been no human tests with the Lion's Mane? The slowing of cancer cells seems pretty useful…

  21. cheezymuffin says:

    Me: "nom nom… wait what? Toxic? Pfff, that yellow flying shrimp told it is fine to eat"

  22. Henri Roggeman says:

    Funky fungi! 🙂

  23. Kendra VanBurkleo says:

    I used t date a guy named stinkhole funguy.

  24. Crawl IntoTheCalm says:

    The fly agaric is named for it use.
    It was used to catch flies. A bowl of milk with the mushroom sliced in it is a very effective fly killer.

  25. Ali Rama says:

    space distortion? so can we ripped space and time with eating enough mushroom?

  26. Repurposed Diesel Submarine Engine Exhaust says:

    Looks like you got a giant black head in both your ears.

  27. FunkyHonkyCDXX says:

    Surprised you didn't mention slime mold. Is that in a different video?

  28. arte0021 says:

    The bleeding tooth looks kinda tasty

  29. Krinniv says:

    Hey Scishow/Michael! You mentioned, regarding the fly agaric, that the colors imply a defensive measure, i.e. coral snakes. However, don't strawberries have the same coloring? Could you do a video on the branching of color with respect to evolutionary biology perhaps? Is that even a field?

  30. Chris Pringle says:

    Apple Arcade will reshape gaming

  31. Ryan Kreder says:

    I'm in the mood for shrooms now…

  32. czaryone says:

    Amanita Muscaria – red muschroom with white dots is not psychodelic, its a dysociant.People still use it all over Europe. I do sometimes. It's
    To make it safe you first dry it, then store it in a conteinter away from light. Or heat treat. It' seems safe, far better then alkohol although the effect is similar but you stay quite concious , but it's not a psychodelic.

  33. hknuddv says:

    I have eaten Amanita Muscaria.
    I found a big one growing by a birch tree at my workplace's carpark.
    I'm interested in mushrooms both culinary and psychedelic so I couldn't pass up such a gift from chaos.
    I'm not insane I cooked the mushroom long enough to denature all the active compounds, which meant I had no psychedelia, but got to eat a delicacy of my neolithic ancestors. Yum yum creamy flavour.
    One day I would consider doing one of the Russian amanita ceremonies.
    There's a northern ethnic group that very very gently cook the amanita, to cook off some off the toxic components whilst leaving the psychedelics. It's not exactly something you should do yourself though, don't mess with neurotoxins kids. Unless you really want to.

  34. KAMIKAZE 619 says:

    Is it weird to being interested to lick dat red fluid tooth shaped mushroom due to look like a jam?
    Or is it just me?

  35. favo63 says:

    Okay… so the bleeding one triggered my trypophobia

  36. Melvin Shine says:

    Pretty sure termites don't really care what something looks like, most of them are effectively blind.

  37. Scott Jackwitz says:

    I do have stinkhorns in my backyard

  38. Rennis Tora says:

    God dang, number 4's right out of Fallout!

  39. Wise Cat says:

    Fly agaric mushrooms don’t have the same effects as psychedelic mushrooms
    They make you feel drunk more than anything
    Muscimol doesn’t have the same effects as psilocybin

  40. KeKKAI SeNN says:

    Am lowkey being eaten by a fungus rn (goddamn ringworm)

    When I said I was fascinated by mushrooms this kind of relationship was anything but intended…

  41. CJ says:

    U can also eat em n hear colors

  42. D Gray says:

    They can't be poisonous if they're natural. Monsanto must have fooled around with them.

  43. Carissa Y says:

    Learning too late in the video that this freaks out my trypophobia… I’m too interested to look away but oof

  44. annakeye says:

    So, you're saying that the researchers put the elderly into a glass jar before giving them the lion's mane or placebo or, they were in a glass jar when they did the cognitive function test? I hope they left the lid off.

  45. Garth Knoll says:

    Fly agaric -so called as it was used to make fly paper back in the day
    SOMA-eastern religion based on the high priests eating the amanita muscaria & the lower tribe members drinking their urine to the tune of 10 people able to partake of 1 dose of mushrooms

  46. TekaiGuy says:


  47. ELDON says:

    This dude looked like a 2001 thug who listens to limp bizkit

  48. Its Shatter says:

    Michael Aranda is one of my favorite scishow hosts!

  49. awnr says:

    There's no such thing as weird mushrooms for a crackhead

  50. Julia Naylor says:

    Under our garden's apple tree and our pear tree there are as with all trees a colony of fungi that spread out underground over tree routes so every area of trees like our bottom of the garden orchard and our neighbour's whose garden back backs onto our garden has them under his apple trees, just like any copse or wood or forest or clump of trees in a street or park, it's part of trees normal ecosystem.???

  51. Loli4lyf says:

    my friend is a fungi and he also race in motospore

  52. Ronan Gamero says:

    All mushrooms are edible. Some of them just once.

  53. michaelfeher says:

    "Don't" ???

  54. Lachlan Moss says:

    You have a gruesome looking fungi on your chin!

  55. Noah Forester says:

    Im going to eat the mushroom

  56. Andrew Keener says:

    LMAO. So, Mario and Luigi were (and still are) getting high. Damn it! That's causing me to look at the game series differently. It makes me wonder if there really was a Princess Toadstool (Peach), and if all that stuff (in the games) are really just their trips (while high).

  57. Dracodracarys 233 says:

    badger badger badger badger MUSHROOM MUSHROOM

  58. Helmut Zollner says:

    The reason why the Flyer Garrick has its name, is because it contains ibotenic acid and muscimol, which are a powerful insecticide.
    It was quite popular in Germany to control insect populations in Milk farms until the 1970. The ibotenic acid and muscimol are supposed to be fat soluble.
    The application is to add a dry slices or two in a bowl of warm milk.
    The milk is the laid out for the flies for example in the cow shed.
    The flies love the laced milk, gorge themselves on it and will be dead within hours.

  59. Lord Mandy says:

    I wish I were a fun guy

  60. Thomas Bensler says:

    "… help decomposing radioactive substances …" – nope, the only way of getting rid of radioactive substances is decay, and they decay whenever THEY want

  61. sirBrouwer says:

    but don't forget/ unless you are 100% sure what fungi you have in front of you. Never eat it. if you eat the wrong kind it can be come very bad for you very fast.

  62. Amazingly confused says:

    How much is opinion and how much is facts. Im not sure anymore.

  63. Chelsea Jordan says:

    "There was a study done with elderly humans that showed Lion's Mane to be beneficial for cognitive function"
    "Hold your horses, many of the studies done with Lion's Mane mushrooms weren't legit"
    ? Someone doesn't want the truth to get out

  64. Cluckery Duckery says:

    75% of the comments are about psilocybic mushrooms. I'm surprised it's not more.

  65. MurkyDizZ says:

    When he said Hyphae I almost went stupid dumb with my thizz face on cause I miss the hyphy movment

  66. vifaz says:

    "hey, i am toxic" – me, everytime playing video games

  67. Christopher Parker says:

    Oh so Mario always be tripping balls then

  68. Iconoclast says:

    The bleeding fungus is used as a dye in Northern California

  69. None of your Business says:

    Wait, wait, wait – that can't possibly be described very accurately: fungi don't absorb "radiation". Do you mean the absorb radioactive materials ? And how would that reduce that material's radiation? All they could do would be chemical processes, which have zero effect on an isotope's nuclear composition and hence, its half-life. Please elaborate in more detail.

  70. Iconoclast says:

    You idiot the fly agaric has been placed in milk to attract flys and kill them for thousands of years hence FLY agaric. People thought it was in the agaricus genus but it’s actually an amenita which is why they called it agaric.Along with muscarin and ibotenic acid it also has mususcamole to get you high. Siberian and Germanic tribes have been taking it before battle and for religious ceremonies where shamens eat them pee into A bowl and served it to the tribes members negating some of the harsh affects for the end user. The term berserk came from the Romans when they encountered the berserker tribes of Germany who would eat the amenita And run naked into battle with dilated eyes.

  71. sataridis says:

    for the second year in a row, a strange fungus sprung in my yard. I thouht it resembled a 'stimky squid' but a friend of mine told me, after looking at the photos I took, it was 'devil's fingers'. This happened in northern Portugal. I was told these are exotic. Should I take any precautions?

  72. hereticpariah 6/66 says:

    8:08 ….I thought flies didn't poop. no anus. just endlessly recycled vomit. am I wrong? anybody?

  73. Alistair Kaname says:

    so are you saying black people can become immune to radiation because of melanin, i can finally to become a superhero

  74. I Am Today says:

    The bleeding tooth fungi looks totally epic!

  75. Amy Rankine says:

    Wytches Eggs (stinkhorns before they hatch) don't smell at all, taste a bit raddishy. Likewise its only the tacky top of the mushroom that smells – I imagine it likely tastes fine one prepared (although I've not tried this)…

  76. dillwad1988 says:

    That is not a bleeding tooth, its a strawberry jelly cupcake!

  77. eviljods says:

    I thought Fly Agaric got it's name through the practice of putting a slice in a saucer of milk to lure in and kill flies.

  78. Carrie Wright says:

    Leave it to the Chinese to find a medicinal use for even the most foul smelling fungi….

  79. EROS M says:

    They say a study was done in 2008 giving elderly patients dried mushroom tablets then say that the affects were studied on cultured cells and test animals… Well which was it?

  80. branden d says:

    Mushroom dance
    Mushroom dance
    Whatever could it mean?

  81. GiggitySam Entz says:


  82. GiggitySam Entz says:

    8:01 Pretty fly for a fungi!

  83. Cringerbread Kooky says:

    Don't mix your fly agaric up with death caps

  84. Oni says:

    Mushrooms in the forest = DEATH
    Mushrooms in the grocery store = Food

  85. Elon Musky Husky says:

    Why does he look like sharkboy?

  86. HenryManson says:

    Fungi are Awesome!

  87. David Enrique says:

    The scientific name of the "fly agaric" is Amanita muscaria. The specific epithet refers to flies too. I therefore doubt that the "fly" in "fly agaric" has to do with hallucinations. Sounds like a false etymology to me.

  88. Michael and Brytany Jordan says:

    Kids at our local colleges like to lick those white spotted red mushrooms.

  89. Milo Estobar says:


  90. EbtsOby says:

    I love Fungi!

  91. Chris Boucher says:

    Why am I hungry now?

  92. Einstein 4203 says:

    Michael ???

  93. marian20012 says:

    fun guy.

  94. Michael Herrmann says:

    Something something "fun guy" joke. Lol

  95. Anthony Hewitt says:

    Lol shrooms cause CONFUSION?? Bs im about to take shrooms right now gonna make me feel great. After seeing tiedie for a min ill feel great afterwards

  96. nariu 7times says:

    3:25: we have a pretty intimate relationship with our microbiome…

  97. DigThat CrazyBeep says:

    Lions maine also regrow the milan sheeth on nerves.

  98. ArwenMeow says:

    The host has a really smooth soothing voice. I think he is very talented.

  99. Harits Andhika Nugroho says:

    "..Stinkhorn eggs are delicacy in China…"

    Wow, what a surprise…..i'm shook…..lmao

  100. Nuclear Bullet says:

    Fungi are software patch for our simulated reality.

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