It seems that fungi in Chernobyl are thriving by utilizing gamma radiation as a food source, and they are progressing towards the heart of the reactor core.
A variety of fungi have been found to harness the energy of strong radiation, such as gamma radiation, to promote their growth. This was initially discovered when these fungi were observed flourishing in the highly radioactive surroundings of the Chernobyl reactor disaster site. The fungi use a pigment known as melanin, which not only shields them from the harmful effects of radiation but also enables them to convert the energy from the radiation, much like how plants utilize sunlight for photosynthesis. Interestingly, these fungi appear to switch to this unique energy source when they find themselves in environments lacking in nutrients, like the inside of the Chernobyl reactor.
Insights into these fungi and their melanin could potentially lead to a range of applications, such as creating protection against radiation, aiding in the clean-up of radioactive waste, and possibly even offering new sources of renewable energy in harsh environments where typical plants can’t survive.