Why Did Magic Mushrooms Evolve ‘Magic’?

By Nathaniel Scharping | February 27, 2018 2:50 pm
Psychedelic mushrooms. (Credit: robtek)

Psychedelic mushrooms. (Credit: robtek/Shutterstock)

By now, it’s pretty clear that psilocybin, the active compound in “magic mushrooms” has a potent effect on human beings. But psychedelic visions obviously weren’t the evolutionary force that caused some fungi to make the compound — it’s an unforeseen side effect.

With a new genetic analysis, researchers think they’ve identified why magic mushrooms started producing “magic” in the first place. The culprit, they say, is insects.

Psychedelic Genetics

By sequencing the genomes of three separate species of psychedelic mushrooms and comparing them to genomes from mushrooms not known to possess psychoactive properties, the researchers identified a cluster of five genes common to all three that are involved with psilocybin production.

Though the three psychedelic species aren’t closely related, they do inhabit similar environments, namely dung and decaying wood. Because of this, the researchers think that the psilocybin could be a defense against insects that commonly inhabit such environments and would compete with or even eat the fungi. They’ve been shown to suppress appetite in insects, perhaps convincing them to eat fewer fungi, or to leave more food behind.

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The species of fungi the researchers looked at aren’t closely related, either, leading them to suspect that the genes were passed around by something called horizontal gene transfer. Instead of being inherited from previous generations, in some organisms, certain genes can be passed directly between two individuals. It’s common in bacteria, but fungi can do it too.

This is probably what happened here, the researchers say, in research published Tuesday in Evolution Letters. The gene cluster is too similar to have arisen three separate times, so it must have been shared between fungi, like we might pass around a particularly tasty recipe.

The discovery might researchers to identify other molecules that could be useful to humans. Magic mushrooms have already proven to possess valuable medical applications, whether that’s treating depression in cancer patients, or helping individuals with PTSD.

Like many helpful compounds from the natural world, psilocybin has been repurposed for human good. Other natural remedies surely await.

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MORE ABOUT: animals, psychology
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  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/EquivPrinFail.pdf Uncle Al

    depression in cancer patients” Offer them a voluntary easy exit as well as celebration of their agony and inevitability as they are butchered, burned, and poisoned into healthcare providers’ Accounts Receivable.

  • Magic Mushrooms

    Regardless of why psilocybin exists, it exists and I’m so thankful because it means I’m here.

    I’m just glad the world is becoming more open to me and my therapeutic effects.

    • TLongmire

      Adiconapiluvshite

  • TLongmire

    Imagine an imaginary world and a secret way out. Now imagine a colorful way to stay justified. And you have a few ways to intertain.

  • George Peterson

    Legalize Now! Cures Depression!

  • s k

    sounds like ‘research lite’. Where is your deep stuff?

  • Justin Hammock

    I am interested in metaphysical matters as well as philosophical. I find that psilocybin verifies the constitution of man beyond the physical and allows one to recognize the echoes of the philosophical Greats. I used to have a huge conspiratorial view about the world and it was beginning to influence my relationships with friends and loved ones. After one dose of very good mushrooms, it set me straight and I have been able to take my finger and instead of pointing externally for the reason for my problems, I can now turn that finger around and point it at myself. It has helped me improve my total mindset of the world and the cosmos and my relation to it. What amazes me is that nature can produce such a thing. In a world full of chaos, nature has always produced this fungi that reminds you of your true place in space and time. To me this verifies that the earth is a living entity that has emotions beyond our consciousness and produces effects based on the state of men and their ambitions.

    • Magic Mushrooms

      Very well said my friend! I’m glad I was able to help you out.

      • Brian Allen

        I found it to have the exact opposite effect. When I think of mankind as a whole being, I am suddenly reminded of parasites and their hungry nature to consume until nothing is left, just as we spread from place to place consuming and destroying our environment.

  • wmsteoopaaffwc

    Idiots. I hope you all get a little cow poo in your mouth.

    • Brian Allen

      The confederate flag gives you little if any right to comment here, so keep your ignorance to yourself.

      • wmsteoopaaffwc

        Tell me… did you always hate yourself and your ancestry? Or is that something you discovered during one of your hallucinogenic trips through the cosmos while under the influence of psychedelic cow poo toadstools?
        All liberals are racist cockroaches.

        • Kerri Elitzer

          Thank you for providing such a great example of the type of personality problems that psilocybin could cure.

        • think4yerself

          Or rather, built for us by the owned human chattel of our forefathers. Be honest if you choose to be vocal.
          I happen to be white; I am proud of my family, my ancestors, and all of the collective contributions we have made to the world… But I am also aware that nobody acts alone; all accomplishments scientific, social, and artistic are built on those which precede ours, and to crush another person’s rights and integrity does not increase your own.
          I’m not an advocate of chemical “wonder”, but I also can’t abide your need to use a symbol of hatred as a profile picture.
          Please grow. Good luck.

          • wmsteoopaaffwc

            My choice of profile picture is none of your business. What’s wrong with you? Can’t “abide” it? Don’t look at it.
            You think for yourself, and I will think for myself.

        • nik

          You have a right to be proud of you achievements, but, being white is not one of them, its just an accident of birth.
          Maybe an unfortunate one for the rest of humanity.

          • wmsteoopaaffwc

            Wow. Racist much?

          • nik

            It may come a surprise to you, but I am also white!
            Only and RS hole would be proud of something that he did nothing to achieve. So in effect, he’s proud of nothing, except an accident!
            As to you being a threat?
            Excuse me while I have a little cough to cover my laughter. You’re too pathetic to be a threat, to anyone but a geriatric imbecile.
            You’d do yourself, and the rest of humanity a great service if you won the Darwin award.
            Have a nice day.

        • JustTheFacts

          The confederate flag does not represent “white” nor southern heritage, ancestry, etc. It represents a nation that does not exist. Certain confederate states wanted to cede from the UNITED States of America. The confederacy never came to be. In effect, the confederate flag is anti-USA.

          • wmsteoopaaffwc

            Yes, the Confederate Flag is anti-usa. And yes, the Confederate States Of America DID secede from the united states of america, and it DID exist as a sovereign nation, 1861-1865.
            Enjoy your black grandchildren, you White cuckold trash.

  • nik

    There is evidence that just about all life on Earth, owes its existence to mushrooms, or fungi.
    Fungi produce conditions that other life forms benefit from, and can therefore thrive. Fungi can grow and thrive without sunlight, so, may well outlive the rest of life forms on Earth.
    They also have evolved to live symbiotically with many other plants, and organisms, with benefits to both.
    Perhaps evolving characteristics that made them attractive to some life forms helped to ensure their survival, as they would be protected by those life forms. (ie. US)

  • Laerrus

    I love magic mushrooms so much

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