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New mathematical research has identified that patterns in electrical signals that fungi seemingly send to one another share a striking structural similarity to human speech and resembled the vocabulary of dozens of words. A researcher analysed patterns of the electrical activity of four species – enoki, split gill, ghost and caterpillar fungi.
The research, published in the Royal Society Open Science, found spikes of activity, resembling vocabularies of up to 50 words.
It also said that the distribution of these “fungal word lengths” closely matched those of human languages.
Professor Andrew Adamatzky, from the University of the West of England, found the average “word” length was 5.97 letters.
In contrast, the average word length in English is 4.8 letters, while Russia has a six-letter average.
The data found that split gills – which grow on decaying wood, and whose fruiting bodies resemble undulating waves of tightly packed coral – generated the most complex “sentences” of all.
This suggests that fungi may use electrical transmissions to share information about food or injury.
Despite saying there did not appear to be a “direct relationship” between the fungi’s spiking patterns and human speech, he did point out that there were “many similarities in information processing in living substrates of different classes, families and species.”
His research found that the spikes of activity are relayed along fungal roots called mycelium.
Whatever these “spiking events” represent, they do not appear to be random, Prof Adamatzky added.
He said that it showed fungi had “minds and a consciousness”.
The professor added: “Assuming that spikes of electrical activity are used by fungi to communicate, we demonstrate that distributions of fungal word lengths match that of human languages.
“We found that the size of fungal vocabulary can be up to 50 words, however, the core vocabulary of most frequently used words does not exceed 15 to 20 words.”
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However, professor Adamatzky added: “There is also another option – they are saying nothing.”
He explained that the activity readings may be for a different reason.
He said: “Propagating mycelium tips are electrically charged, and, therefore, when the charged tips pass in a pair of differential electrodes, a spike in the potential difference is recorded.”
Even so, other scientists would like to see more evidence before they are willing to accept them as a form of language.
Dan Bebber, from the University of Exeter and a member of the British Mycological Society’s fungal biology research committee, said “This new paper detects rhythmic patterns in electric signals, of a similar frequency as the nutrient pulses we found.”
However, he then added “the interpretation as language seems somewhat overenthusiastic and would require far more research”, the Guardian reported.
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