Frog mushroom

A Rao’s Intermediate Golden-backed Frog (Indosylvirana intermedia) with a Bonnet Mushroom (Mycena sp.) sprouting from its left flank found on 19 June 2023, at Mala, Karkala, Karnataka, India. Photographs by Lohit Y.T.

KARNATAKA, India — In a fascinating discovery that sounds like it’s straight out of a fairy tale, scientists in Karnataka, India have discovered a rare phenomenon: a mushroom growing from the side of a living frog. Researchers made this unusual observation in June 2023, sparking curiosity and wonder among the scientific community and beyond.

A Rao’s Intermediate Golden-backed Frog with a Bonnet Mushroom sprouting from its left flank. Photographs by Lohit Y.T.
A Rao’s Intermediate Golden-backed Frog (Indosylvirana intermedia) with a Bonnet Mushroom (Mycena sp.) sprouting from its left flank found on 19 June 2023, at Mala, Karkala, Karnataka, India. Photographs by Lohit Y.T.

The frog, spotted in the lush landscapes of Mala Karkala, Karnataka, appeared to be healthy and active despite its unique condition. The mushroom, identified as a Bonnet Mushroom (Mycena sp.), typically thrives on rotting wood, not living creatures. What makes this truly special is that this is the first recorded occurrence of a mushroom sprouting from a living amphibian, presenting a curious intersection between the animal and fungal kingdoms.

“We encountered about 40 Rao’s Intermediate Golden-backed Frogs in a small roadside rainwater-fed pond. One individual perched on a twig had a dis-tinct outgrowth on its left flank. A closer examination clearly revealed a mushroom sprouting from its side,” the team writes in the journal Reptiles & Amphibians.

Rao’s Intermediate Golden-backed Frog with a Bonnet Mushroom sprouting from its left flank sitting on a tree
A Rao’s Intermediate Golden-backed Frog (Indosylvirana intermedia) with a Bonnet Mushroom (Mycena sp.) sprouting from its left flank found on 19 June 2023, at Mala, Karkala, Karnataka, India. Photographs by Lohit Y.T.

Fungi, including mushrooms, play essential roles in ecosystems, from breaking down organic matter to forming symbiotic relationships with plants. However, some fungi can be parasitic. In amphibians, the notorious fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis has caused widespread disease and decline in populations. Yet, the discovery in Karnataka offers a more benign, if not bewildering, example of fungal-animal interaction.

“Recent studies have shown that this amphibian killer is present in low levels in all of the frog hotspots across India,” the team adds.

Mushroom sprouting from Rao’s Intermediate Golden-backed Frog
A Rao’s Intermediate Golden-backed Frog (Indosylvirana intermedia) with a Bonnet Mushroom (Mycena sp.) sprouting from its left flank found on 19 June 2023, at Mala, Karkala, Karnataka, India. Photographs by Lohit Y.T.

This remarkable observation raises questions about the circumstances under which a mushroom could grow from a frog — especially a living one. For now, the specifics will remain a mystery because the team chose to let the frog stay in nature instead of collecting it for study. In the meantime, this one-of-a-kind discovery is a vivid reminder of the wonders that lie in wait, even in the smallest and most unassuming corners of the planet.

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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