Jun 24, 2019 | Updated: 08:43 AM EDT

Gold Coated Fungi Discovered in Australia Could Lead to Natural Methods of Gold Mining

May 27, 2019 11:32 AM EDT

Coloured image of the gold-coated Fusarium oxsporum fungi.
(Photo : CSIRO)

A surprising discovery has been found in Western Australia where a fungi is covered in gold. The fungi draws gold particles from its surroundings which leaves it's exterior looking golden itself.

The phenomenon is quite unusual according to CSIRO Lead Author Dr. Tsing Bohu. "But gold is so chemically inactive that this interaction is both unusual and surprising - it had to be seen to be believed."

The fungi (Fusarium oxysporum), was determined to produce a chemical superoxide that can actually dissolve and then secrete gold which sticks out of the fungus itself. The details of this new study were published in the journal Nature Communications and had since stunned scientists who have not yet determined exactly why this interaction occurs.

One popular theory has something to do with evolution. Scientists theorize that the fungus absorbs gold to help out with their growth. Gold-coated fungi were recorded to be much larger and growing at a faster rate compared to those that are not. They also hypothesize that their existence could mean there are existing gold deposits in the ground where the fungi were found.

Eventually, scientists are hoping to make use of these gold covered fungi, as a natural exploration tool to uncover more of Australia's gold metal resources which are predicted to experience a steep decline in the future. Currently, miners are already using natural methods such as gum leaves and termite mounds - both of which can store tiny traces of gold like this fungus - to guide metal exploration.

"We want to understand if the fungi we studied.... can be used in combination with these exploration tools to help the industry to target prospective areas," said Chief Research Scientist Dr. Ravi Anand.

A microbiologist from the Switzerland's University of Neuchatel, Saskia Bindschedler, although was not involved in the study believes that it has opened up the possibility of other unusual uses for microbes. Along with other scientists, she believes that microbes could not help out in the detection of gold but in its mobilization too. All these would be greatly helpful to Australia who despite being one of the largest gold metal producers in the world, is expecting gold to be running out soon.

Gold-coated fungi discovered in Western Australia from CSIRO on Vimeo.

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