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Killer mushroom releases fungus ‘nerve gas’ to paralyse victims before ‘rapid death’

SCIENTISTS have uncovered a ‘killer mushroom’ that uses nerve gas to paralyse its victims before it eats them alive.

But the fungi fiend is surprisingly delicious.


Fried oyster mushrooms with fresh herbsCredit: Getty Images

Most people don’t know that this mushroom can actually be found on supermarket shelves.

It is nothing other than an oyster mushroom.

This tasty and unsuspecting mushroom preys on worms.

It uses a “nerve gas in a lollipop” killing strategy, according to Yen-Ping Hsueh, the lead scientist on the research.

But fear not, the mushroom itself is wholly non-toxic for humans wanting to eat it.

The fungus releases a paralysing nerve agent called 3-octanone before absorbing its prey’s nutrients to grow.

Scientists have known since the 1980s that oyster mushrooms feed on microscopic roundworms called nematodes.

But it doesn’t have arms, legs, a mouth or even a stomach.

Fungi researchers, also known as mycologists, have been baffled as to how the oyster mushroom does this.

That is until mycologists at a research institute in Taiwan, Academia Sinica, made their most recent discovery.

They found that oyster mushrooms contain miniscule, lollipop-shaped structures that break open when the roundworms touch them.

Once these structures break through, they release a gas which is highly toxic to their prey.

Oyster mushrooms aren’t the only fungi that display some pretty antisocial behaviour towards nematodes.

These tiny worms are the most common animals in soil.

And there are several other mushrooms that feed on the tiny animal.

Fungi use an array of creative methods to subdue and eat their prey.

Some have sticky traps to catch worms in, and others even produce noose-like structures that tighten around their necks, said Hsueh.

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