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Scientists found a mushroom growing on a living frog

Published Feb 13th, 2024 9:40PM EST
Bronzed Frog, Golden-backed Frog,
Image: Al Carrera / Adobe

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Mushrooms don’t typically grow on living flesh. That’s why scientists were so astonished to find a mushroom growing out of the side of a frog similar to the one seen in the image at the top of the page. Lohit Y.T., a river and wetlands specialist with World Wildlife Fund-India, and a group of friends made the discovery.

Lohit says that the group of five was searching for amphibians and reptiles in the foothills of the Western Ghats in India when they realized that a tiny mushroom was growing from the side of one of the golden-back frogs hanging around a roadside pond.

There were roughly 40 Rao’s intermediate golden-back frogs in the area, Lohit explained in an article published in the journal Reptiles and Amphibians. The discovery of the small mushroom growing in living flesh was exciting and also baffling.

Fungi can survive in a myriad of different environments, including on the skin of a frog, apparently. Image source: Mindaugas/Adobe

Sure, there are some fungi that live on decaying plant matter and even some pathogens like the insect-infecting fungi responsible for creating “zombie ants.” But for the most part, fungus doesn’t typically grow into mushrooms in living flesh. However, because it was growing on the side of the frog, the mushroom had to be getting nutrients from somewhere.

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely we’ll ever learn where the mushroom was getting its nutrients from. While Lohit and his group were astounded by the discovery, they only observed it. They didn’t capture or sample the mushroom growing on the living flesh. As such, all we can do is speculate about how it happened.

It’s possible that the mushroom was simply feeding off something on the frog’s skin. Or, perhaps, it had managed to pierce the frog’s skin and start feeding off the little critter itself. Just based on the images that Lohit shared, the mushroom doesn’t appear to be a pathogenic fungus.

Of course, without the frog and mushroom in hand, it’s impossible to say for sure just how deep it goes. Even without those answers, though, it certainly raises some new questions about fungi and the nature that they have with living flesh.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.