New Fungus Found in Chernobyl Area Feeds on Radiation: Implications for Bioremediation, Medical Research, and Space Exploration

In 1991, five years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, scientists discovered a black fungus growing on the walls of the damaged reactor’s containment structure. This fungus, called Cryptococcus neoformans, was found to not only survive in the extreme radiation levels but also to feed on it. Recent studies have shown that this unique ability of C. neoformans to metabolize ionizing radiation could have significant implications for bioremediation, as well as medical and space research.

The discovery of this radiation-eating fungus is significant because it provides a potential solution to the problem of nuclear waste cleanup. Current methods of nuclear waste disposal involve storing radioactive material in secure facilities, which can be costly and pose a threat to public safety. The use of C. neoformans in bioremediation could significantly reduce these risks and costs.

In a recent study, scientists investigated the genetic basis for C. neoformans’ ability to metabolize radiation. They found that a specific protein in the fungus called melanin plays a crucial role in protecting it from the harmful effects of radiation. Melanin is a pigment that is also found in human skin, and it is known to protect against UV radiation. In C. neoformans, melanin not only protects the fungus from radiation damage but also allows it to use radiation as a source of energy.

The use of C. neoformans in bioremediation has already been demonstrated in a pilot study in which the fungus was used to clean up soil contaminated with cesium-137, a radioactive isotope. The researchers found that the fungus was able to significantly reduce the levels of cesium-137 in the soil, indicating its potential for use in nuclear waste cleanup.

The discovery of C. neoformans’ radiation-eating abilities also has implications for medical research. Radiation therapy is a common treatment for cancer, but it can also cause damage to healthy cells in the body. If scientists can identify the specific proteins in C. neoformans that allow it to metabolize radiation, they may be able to develop drugs that protect healthy cells during radiation therapy.

The fungus could also have potential applications in space research. Astronauts traveling to Mars or other destinations in the solar system will be exposed to high levels of radiation, which could have significant health effects. If scientists can develop a way to use C. neoformans to protect astronauts from radiation damage, it could make long-term space travel more feasible.

However, the use of C. neoformans in bioremediation and other applications is not without its challenges. For example, the fungus is a pathogen that can cause serious infections in people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS. It is also difficult to grow in the lab, which could limit its potential for large-scale bioremediation efforts.

Despite these challenges, the discovery of C. neoformans’ radiation-eating abilities has opened up new possibilities for nuclear waste cleanup, medical research, and space exploration. Further research is needed to fully understand the fungus’s unique capabilities and to develop ways to harness its potential for practical applications.


  1. Dadachova, E., Bryan, R. A., Huang, X., Moadel, T., Schweitzer, A. D., Aisen, P., & Nosanchuk, J. D. (2007). Ionizing radiation changes the electronic properties of melanin and enhances the growth of melanized fungi. PLoS One, 2(5), e457.
  2. Dighton, J. (2007). Fungi in ecosystem processes. CRC Press.
  3. Gadd, G. M. (2007). Geomycology: biogeochemical transformations of rocks, minerals, metals and radionucl

Fungus Feeds on Radioactivity: The Rise of Space Fungus

fungus mushroom radioactive

I think this fungus makes me taller…

Scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (AEC) have found fungus feeding on radioactivity within the Chernobyl nuclear reactor.  Scientists suspect that melanin, the same UV filter in our skin, is responsible for allowing these fungi to consume a mutant-creating-level of gamma radiation.

Microbiologist Arturo Casadevall learned years before this discovery that a robot had been sent into areas of intense radioactivity and had returned with samples of  black, melanin rich fungi growing on the walls. He and his colleagues later saw reports that the cooling water in some working nuclear reactors turns black from colonies of melanin-rich fungi.

Related Article: Watching Evolution Occur 

radiotrophic fungus

Don’t you see? A nuclear device would only make radiotrophic fungus stronger!

Casadevall explains that,

I found that very interesting and began discussing with colleagues whether these fungi might be using the radiation emissions as an energy source.

Despite the lethal gamma radiation lingering at the Chernobyl reactor, many microorganisms find a way to survive. Casadevall thought that maybe the radiation was aiding the fungi’s growth.  According to Casadevall,

The thought was that biology never wastes any energy source.

Sure enough, Casadevall’s hypothesis was correct, and after a series of tests involving 500-times normal radiation levels, electron spin resonance, close-up melanin observation, and a melanin-less albino fungus, the radiotrophic fungus was born into the minds’ of mankind. Researchers also speculate that the fungi aren’t feeding solely on gamma rays, but X-rays, UV rays and other rays as well.

Related Article: New Ecosystem Discovered: Glacier Mice

Want to know how I know reality is batshit crazy? There is life on this planet that feeds on something we can’t even see, but will destroy us from the inside out with cancer nonetheless.  There is life that feeds on death!

types of fungus

And these would be specimens from which planet?

Fungus has far more uses than you might have realized:

Related Article: The Evolutionary Leaps of Snails

Fungus is also cooler and better at life than you. Certain fungus species can eject their spore mass

at 35 feet per second (10.8 m per second) to a height of six feet (2 m), and lands as far away as 8 feet (2.5 m).

Fungus species pump out spores at an extremely high rate as well.

A single mushroom can launch 31,000 ballistospores per second, adding up to some 2.7 billion spores per day.

Some types of fungi can even control the air around them to create a spore-scattering breeze where there was only still air before. Check out the following videos. The first one shows a great example of spore dispersal, while the second one contains footage of a spore launch filmed with a high speed camera.

Let’s get back to the melanin study. Do you realize the study serves as a more stable foundation to support the strange, albeit utterly possible supposition that mushrooms came from outside Earth?  Is it really that hard to imagine though? The notion  that mushrooms came from space may be too ‘out there’ for some, but is it really that much weirder than:  Lake life surviving in isolation under ice for 2800 years, the atmosphere of Titan making DNA, or sugar floating around stars?  As they say, truth is stranger than fiction.

fungus space

Hi, my name’s fungi, I’m a fun guy, let’s hang out in your spacecraft!

Related Article: Climate Change Too Fast, Evolution Can’t Keep Up

Just like fungus, life shows up in the strangest places and in the most bizarre forms. To end this article on an even more incredible note, would you believe me if I told you there are space mushrooms in the night sky peering into your soul?! How about mutated space mushrooms eating away at space stations? Yup, that’s a thing.

Space fungus has been growing on and within the Russian Mir-Space Station since the late ’80s. While the fungus and other microorganisms are normal terrestrial forms of life that were brought up from Earth with the cosmonauts, they fear potential mutations that 500-times higher gamma radiation exposure can induce in the fungi.  After all, the fungi’s corrosive fluids are already eating through metal, plastic, and other essential materials on the space station. I wonder how much gamma radiation it takes to mutate space fungus into delicious truffles on my dinner plate…

Remember, depending on the observer, all of reality and life is strange and unexpected. To make life even more unpredictable your utterly limited self perceives less than one-billionth of reality, and that’s just the light spectrum. If fungus can teach us anything it is to never underestimate the strangeness of reality and the possibility that there may exist anything we can imagine and more.