It was on a full moon summer night, after monsoon rain, that Juergen found the ghost fungus, on a dead tree in the rainforest near his home in northern Queensland, Australia. He needed a torch to keep to the track, but every few metres he would switch it off to scan the dark for the ghostly glow. His reward was this cluster of hand-sized fruiting bodies. Only 71 of the more than 150,000 species of fungi, are known to make light in this way, through a chemical reaction: luciferin oxidizing in contact with the enzyme luciferase. But why the ghost fungus glows is a mystery. No spore-dispersing insects seem to be attracted by the light, which is produced constantly and may just be a by-product of the fungi’s metabolism. Juergen crouched on the forest floor for at least 90 minutes to take eight 5-minute exposures – to capture the dim glow – at different focal points, which were merged (focus stacked), to create one sharp-focus image of the tree-trunk display.
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