The origin story of a fungal super hero

In comic books, radiation exposure always leads to awesome superpowers. In reality, not so much. Except in the case of Cladosporium cladosporioides, a fungus exposed to high doses of radiation during the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown. Not only did C. cladosporioides survive it gained a superpower — the ability to "eat" radiation.


  1.  It also contains a mechanism that repairs DNA, meaning it can easily survive while under constant exposure to ionizing radiation.

    And wouldn’t you know it? I’m allergic to the damn thing.

  2.  This was the premise of “The Andromeda Strain” I recall.

    They briefly note that plants are already getting energy from light. Light is just another wavelength of electromagnetic radiation so maybe this fungus getting energy from radiation(!) radiation is not so far out.  Maybe we should say that plants have the superpower too.

    Is there a Photosynthesis Man in the comic book universe?

    1. What about alpha and beta radiation? Can it harvest that? Or is it only doing something like photosynthesis for gamma/x-rays?

    2. It’s a fungus. Although they look more like plants than animals, fungi aren’t plants and don’t photosynthesize (in fact fungi are closer to animals from an evolutionary perspective). If it isn’t just a more typical case of radiation resistance and really is a case of getting energy from radiation, this is something completely different from photosynthesis and evolved separately.

      1. the fact that this isn’t photosynthesis with chlorophyll doesn’t make the plants’ powers any less super.  I sure can’t make food by sitting in the sun.  I don’t think Superman can either.

  3. These biologia are amazing.  I wonder if there is any way to implement this organism to soak up unwanted radiation in targeted areas?   I fear the human race is actively engaged in selecting for these abilities as well, but with a vastly less iterative scale. I know that certain extremophiles can resist hard radiation , in space – for some reason I thing of the red rain incident in India.

    1. “I wonder if there is any way to implement this organism to soak up unwanted radiation in targeted areas?”

      Not obviously worth the effort(though the growth patterns might make tracing easier). These fungi are unusual in that they can make use of the energy added by a gamma ray strike, rather than just suffering damage like a normal organism; but they don’t ‘de-irradiate’ things any more than other life forms, or sand, or dirt, or a new layer of paint. The radioactive sources remain and continue to emit for whatever period physics prescribes. These little guys just make good use of the gamma rays they absorb, rather than ignoring them(as a layer of dead shielding material would) or suffering harm, as most organisms do.

  4. I believe the we need to face the fact the we ARE the Great Old Ones.

    The more we learn about life, the more we learn that it can survive almost everywhere. If life preceded us, it would already be everywhere.

    I suppose we can do a few more checks on Mars, Venus and Europa to see if life is already there. But, then it’s time to get down to work. If we want an interesting, living universe, we need to spread life. We already have templates that we can use to infect the Solar System.

    The iPad should be all the evidence we need to demonstrate that we are genetically disposed to creating bigger and better monoliths.

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