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The Wonders of the Biggest Living Organism on Earth!
I will start by answering the question straightaway. The biggest living organism in the world is a fungus. Yes, a fungus! In eastern Oregon, spread over an area of more than 2000 acres, two thousand years old and just one cell wall thick, exists the largest living organism on earth.
Our planet earth is full of mysteries. Facts, which can thrill anyone. The ginormous organism mentioned above is a mycelial mat. The secret for its long existence is its capability to produce a fungus which is so strong that it can burst through hard round and asphalt.
Life as we know it on this planet would be dissimilar on so many different levels if it weren’t for the enigmatic and astounding mycelium. With its high efficiency, it so different, than most life on earth. It can destroy and give life simultaneously.
The mycelium holds the soil together and is extremely tenacious. It holds 30000 times its mass. It facilitates the production of humus soils all over earth. Why is there such abundance of this organism on our planet? Here is the answer. 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit our planet earth, the impact generated a huge amount of debris into the atmosphere. Subsequently sunlight was cut off and in such harsh conditions only those organisms could survive which could exist in the dark environment like fungi. As other living things died around them, fungi prospered. Getting nutrients from dying organisms and in the absence of sunlight they proliferated. Mycelium thrived, swiftly building intricate yet highly efficient networks across vast landscapes.
Today we know that these networks supply nutrients to not only a variety plants, it also facilitates the growth of a plethora of microorganisms. Mycelium has been called earth’s natural internet because of its complex network supplying a multitude of nutrients and facilitating the passing of chemical signals from one plant to another. As this network is highly branched if one pathway is broken, alternate routes are quickly formed. Fungi were also the first complex organisms to come into being 1.3 billion years ago before even plants.
Recently scientists at Einstein University have discovered that fungi use radiation as a source of energy. Coupled with the fact that they can exist in the absence of sunlight, this new discovery points towards the possibility, that fungi could exist on some other planet, in some far off galaxy in some other solar system, where they might already be facilitating the growth of other multicellular organisms. This idea alone opens up a huge window of probabilities in support of life on other planets.
Not only this, mycelium has a potential to save the future of mankind which looks a little bleak in this era of ever increasing pollution of every kind on every possible level. An experiment headed by Paul Edward Stamets, who is an American mycologist, author and advocate of bioremediation and medicinal fungi recently displayed the wonders that can be performed by this fungus. Mycelium has an ability to produce peroxidase which can break hydrocarbons and the synthesize carbohydrates. A pile of soil which was saturated with diesel and other petroleum waste was treated with mycelium. Six weeks later, the pile not only changed its colour and composition but transformed into an ecosystem in itself, teeming with mushrooms and as the mushrooms sporulated, insects were drawn to them. These insects did lay eggs and when the eggs changed into larvae, birds came tohe pile, eating the insects and spreading seeds in return. This process transmuted the pile into a landscape packed with different forms of life. The saturation of petroleum waste from the soil changed from 10000 ppm to 200 ppm in 8 weeks. Such is the magic of this mysterious organism that inhabits our planet, arriving here before any other complex life form and proving its tenacity.