Scientists Baffled by Mushroom Growing on Live Frog

In what is believed to be the first ever such documented case, researchers in India came across a live frog with a small mushroom growing on the side of its body.

The Last of Us, the hit HBO series based on the namesake video game series, has popularized the fictional idea of mushrooms and fungi infecting humans and turning them into mindless zombies. In reality, fungi from the cordyceps family only infect insects, but a team of Indian researchers recently made a discovery that speaks to the adaptability of these microorganisms and their ability to survive and thrive in the most unusual conditions. While observing the fauna around a small pond in the foothills of the Kudremukha Ranges, India, hobbyist naturalist Chinmay Maliye and wetland specialist Lohit Y.T. came across a frog with a mushroom sprouting from its flank.

Photo: LOHIT Y.T

“To the best of our knowledge, never has a mushroom sprouting from the flank of a live frog been documented,” the duo wrote in a report documenting their finding. “One individual perched on a twig had a distinct outgrowth on its left flank. A closer examination clearly revealed a mushroom sprouting from its side.”

The frog was alive and didn’t seem at all bothered by the small, grey mushroom growing out of it. The gray-capped mushroom was later identified as a member of the Mycena genus, a type of bonnet mushroom that grows on live or rotting wood, or on animal dung, but definitely not on live amphibians.

One theory is that the mushroom found a foothold in a wound the frog had suffered, but the pictures captured by the two Indian researchers show no signs of injury or skin disease.

Photo: LOHIT Y.T

“I would guess that this is a purely superficial skin infection with Mycena,” mycologist Christoffer Bugge Harder at the University of Copenhagen told Forbes. “Those can be sustained over a long time, as most fungal skin infections in humans.”

There are still many unknowns about this bizarre discovery, from the exact type of fungus – Mycena is a very big family – to what exactly it was growing out of, the frog’s skin or organic matter stuck in an old injury, and what eventually happened to the frog. The amphibian was moving about lively when it was spotted, but it was not collected, so its fate is unknown.

Despite the many questions, the discovery has been described as “major news” in the science world. Although apocalyptic scenarios like that of The Last of Us are unlikely due to the inhospitable temperature of the human body, the possibility of mushrooms and fungi infecting living animals is definitely news worthy.

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