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Past research has shown that fungi send electrical impulses via long, underground filamentous structures called hyphae. Scientists have theorized that the organisms use this ability to share information about food or injury with distant parts of themselves.
But researcher Andrew Adamatzky conducted a mathematical analysis of the electrical signals the organisms send to each other and came across patterns that bear a striking structural similarity to human speech.
For his study, he placed small microelectrodes into four species of fungi – enoki, split gill, ghost and caterpillar – and studied the patterns of electrical spikes they generated.
The findings showed that the spikes would cluster into trains of activity – these resembled vocabularies of up to 50 words – and the distribution of these “fungal word lengths” was quite similar to that of human language.
Among the four species, the split gills were the smooth-talkers – meaning they generated the most complex “sentences.”
Adamatzky suggested that the electrical activity could have various functions, including maintaining the fungi’s integrity but their exact purpose remains elusive. Still, he added that these electrical spikes are not random.
Other researchers, meanwhile, suggested that more evidence is needed to confirm the existence of “mushroom-speak.”
“Though interesting, the interpretation as language seems somewhat overenthusiastic, and would require far more research and testing of critical hypotheses before we see ‘Fungus’ on Google Translate,” said Dan Bebber of the British Mycological Society.