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Radiation-Eating Fungi

Life’s capabilities continue to astound. Another assumption of mainstream science is overturned: Now we find that some kinds of fungi can grow very nicely, thank you, in very high radiation environments, and even appear to thrive, using radiation as an energy source.
I wonder; in what sort of environment did these organisms evolve to account for this remarkable ability?

From a report on a study by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine:

“Scientists have long assumed that fungi exist mainly to decompose matter into chemicals that other organisms can then use. But researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have found evidence that fungi possess a previously undiscovered talent with profound implications: the ability to use radioactivity as an energy source for making food and spurring their growth.
“The fungal kingdom comprises more species than any other plant or animal kingdom, so finding that they’re making food in addition to breaking it down means that Earth’s energetics—in particular, the amount of radiation energy being converted to biological energy—may need to be recalculated,” says Dr. Arturo Casadevall, chair of microbiology & immunology at Einstein and senior author of the study, published May 23 in PLoS ONE.”

It seems that certain fungi, specifically those containing melanin, the same stuff that give us those nice cancerous tans, thrive in high radiation environments. In their discussion the researchers note:

“The literature already contains some indirect evidence for the notion that radiation can enhance the growth of melanized microorganisms. For example, the melanotic fungus C. cladosporioides manifests radiotropism by growing in the direction of radioactive particles and this organism has become widely distributed in the areas surrounding Chernobyl since the nuclear accident in 1986 [7]. Both in the laboratory and in the field several other species of melanized fungi grew towards soil particles contaminated with different radionuclides, gradually engulfing and destroying those particles [35], [36]….
On the basis of these precedents and the results of this study we cautiously suggest that the ability of melanin to capture electromagnetic radiation combined with its remarkable oxidation-reduction properties may confer upon melanotic organisms the ability to harness radiation for metabolic energy.”

It was observations in the aftermath of Chernobyl that led to this research:

“The research began five years ago when Dr. Casadevall read on the Web that a robot sent into the still-highly-radioactive damaged reactor at Chernobyl had returned with samples of black, melanin-rich fungi that were growing on the reactor’s walls.”

The question naturally arises; whence came this unusual ability? Where in the evolutionary past of fungi are the Chernobyls or other high radiation environments? How will Darwinism explain the development of this surprising trait? Why ON EARTH would fungi need this ability?

Certainly for panspermia to work, there must exist organisms that can survive the rigors of space travel, including radiation. We already know about bacteria that can do this. Now we have another possibility.
And another difficulty for Darwinism.

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10 Responses to Radiation-Eating Fungi

  1. Good find dacook.

  2. Where did they evolve? Why undoubtedly in a natural reactor such as that found in the Oklo uranium deposit in Africa.

    See how easy it is to come up with semi-plausible evolutionary solutions?

  3. “See how easy it is to come up with semi-plausible evolutionary solutions?”

    It seems to me there is an underlying assumption in that statement that doesn’t cut it.

    The assumption is that somehow something else similar lived there to evolve. But how did that something else survive then – before evolving?

    Is this yet another Darwinian tautology?

  4. Where in the evolutionary past of fungi are the Chernobyls or other high radiation environments?

    Isn’t that the point? These fungi developed (dare I say, “evolved”) an ability that was not present in earlier forms.

    How will Darwinism explain the development of this surprising trait?

    It seems that you have the explanation yourself in the article. The melanin that was already used for protection from radiation (which is what our bodies use it for, of course) was adapted in the high radiation environment to supply energy to the organism. This is a classic example of a trait developing from some feature that existed before, but was used for another purpose.

    Why ON EARTH would fungi need this ability?

    Um… to survive where they are. This is an amazing adaptation, since it has sole access to that environment with nothing feeding on it and nothing competing for the resources.

    And another difficulty for Darwinism.

    How’s that? I’m honestly curious how this is a challenge for Darwinism. If anything, I see it as more of a challenge to ID. If this creature was designed thousands of years ago, where has it been. Evolution can explain how something adapted “on the fly” to a new environment that did not previously exist, but ID cannot.

  5. Evolution can explain how something adapted “on the fly” to a new environment that did not previously exist, but ID cannot.

    lol. Let me see if I have this straight.

    Evolution can explain how something “adapted on the fly” by just getting lucky with the right mutation in the right place at the right time under the right circumstances and just happily avoiding the inevitable fate of the vast majority of mutations, but a theory which questions the efficacy of such chance based causation in favor of intelligent causation cannot possibily explain how something might be designed to “adapt on the fly.” HAW!

  6. Heard of “demographic fluctuations”, a term used by distinguished French zoologist to describe the frequency change of coloured moths, finch beaks, etc.

    Radiation is in the sunlight everywhere. So, fungi with such capability probably exist everywhere. Just that biologists have not discovered them in the past. Now the environment exists for it to bloom whereas other kind of fungi are not fit to bloom. It’s merely a frequency fluctuation, like the European white race colonizing the Americas after the Christopher Columbus.

    This is like the so-called evolution of drug-resistant bacteria. Such bacteria actually existed long before the invention of antibiotics.

  7. Evolution can explain how something “adapted on the fly” by just getting lucky with the right mutation in the right place at the right time under the right circumstances and just happily avoiding the inevitable fate of the vast majority of mutations,

    It is true that evolution requires that mutations occur and are occasionally beneficial (unless some other mechanism is found). In this case, however, that kind of reasoning is not required. The capability appears to have already been present, as another post points out.

    but a theory which questions the efficacy of such chance based causation in favor of intelligent causation cannot possibily explain how something might be designed to “adapt on the fly.”

    First of all, you are presenting a false dichotomy. The failings of one scientific theory do not automatically prove another theory. Secondly, what you are implying is a “just so” story – not an actual prediction of ID. Evolution expects that we will find life in areas that origially contained none or didn’t even exist previously. Although this observation may be consistent with ID, it is not a prediction of it per se.

    Going back to one of the original questions, and why I posted in the first place… I’d like to hear exactly why this finding is considered a challenge to evolution.

  8. eric

    If the question is “Was there any external intelligent agency involved in the origination of this pattern?” it is not a false dichotomy. The answer can only be yes or no. Ignorance might also be pleaded but that’s not really an answer just an admission that you don’t have an answer.

    That said I’m not sure how this either supports or refutes NeoDarwinian Evolution or Intelligent Design. It does add to the results one must consider from either mechanism. It appears the good Doctor Cook is arguing that this is a discontinuity in evolution that requires a plausible NeoDarwian story of gradual change to explain it. Intelligent agency can, of course, explain discontinuities. The classic example illustrating discontinuity is the transformation of a gold nugget into a gold watch. In terms of living systems the most difficult transformation (IMO) is that of several kinds of atoms self-organizing into a replicator with a mechanism of change (mutation), preferring one change over another (selection), and a method of preserving the selected changes (inheritance).

  9. If the question is “Was there any external intelligent agency involved in the origination of this pattern?” it is not a false dichotomy.

    I’ll agree that there are only two possible answers to that question. However, that’s not what I was referring to. Even if materialistic evolution was demonstrated to be false, there may be some other theory developed to explain life still without a designer. (Note: I’m not suggesting this would necessarily happen, I’m merely illustrating a point.) Invalidation of one theory does not prove another one in science. Period. If there is no other competing theory, then sure… it points to that being worthy of more investigation, but a theory can’t live of off the demise of another one. (Likewise, if ID could be proven false, it would not automatically demonstrate evolution to be true.)

    It appears the good Doctor Cook is arguing that this is a discontinuity in evolution that requires a plausible NeoDarwian story of gradual change to explain it

    Not much change is required in this case. As others have pointed out, there is a possible explanation that does not require a sudden change in the last 5 years. At most, it seems only minor changes in existing capabilities for this organism to appear. Especially if no new genes were required for this ability, it seems well within the realm of plausibility.

    Intelligent agency can, of course, explain discontinuities.

    So, out of curiosity, are you suggesting that the designer is still active in the world?

    In terms of living systems the most difficult transformation (IMO) is that of several kinds of atoms self-organizing into a replicator with a mechanism of change (mutation), preferring one change over another (selection), and a method of preserving the selected changes (inheritance).

    This is a bit off the original topic, but just for fun:

    1) Replication and inheritance I would consider to be two sides of the same coin. One implies the other, so I think you’re overstating here.

    2) Mutation certainly needs to be justified. Radiation is often called upon, as is transcription errors, etc.

    3) Selection is an obvious effect of some organisms getting to breed and others not. If it didn’t, we couldn’t breed dogs or cattle. It seems silly to challenge something that so obviously occurs.

    Of these, the only point of contention seems to be mutation and if it’s enough to help life along without being too much and destroying life.

    Is this a bad summary of the issue in your mind?

  10. Eric:

    I’d like to hear exactly why this finding is considered a challenge to evolution.

    From the article:

    “Scientists have long assumed that fungi exist mainly to decompose matter into chemicals that other organisms can then use…

    It is a challenge (to the neo-Darwinian paradigm) because another longstanding standard assumption has been overturned by real-life observations, and now you must scramble to explain it within the paradigm.
    Fungi evolved to decompose dead things, everyone knows that, it’s in the books, right? But wait; some of them can live off radiation? Where did that come from?
    Darwinists must now come up with a explanation for something which their theory did not anticipate or predict. That is the challenge.
    Did Darwinism predict this surprising ability? Not at all. It’s a complete surprise, like so many other real life findings.
    But now it must come up with a plausible explanation.
    Did panspermia predict this ability? Indirectly, it did.
    Which, therefore, is the stronger theory?
    A good theory can be used to predict future findings. This is another example of how Darwinism doesn’t do this.

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