The world of Fungi: How Some Of These Resemble Corpse Fingers, UFOs, Tongues
Of the roughly 100,000 known species of mushrooms, just 71 glow in the dark.
Mycena chlorophos is one of them, but only its cap, or top, lights up, "so they really do look like tiny glowing UFOs at night," Thomas Jenkinson, a Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan, says via email.
Jenkinson has seen these bioluminescent fungi firsthand on a research trip to the Micronesia, and calls them "a magical sight." (Also see "Fungi Need Some Love, Too.")
Why mushrooms glow is still a mystery, but a recent study in the journal Current Biology shed more light on a species called Neonothopanus gardneri.
That research found the fungi actually have a circadian clock with bioluminescent properties that peak at night. The glow attracts insects, which help disperse the mushrooms spores.
Or, just maybe, they also attract little mushroom aliens who need a ride home.
Read More: NationalGeographic