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Scientists find fungus drawing gold in Western Australia

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Australian scientists have discovered a fungus that draws gold from its surroundings.

The fungus, discovered south of Perth, is a strain of the fusarium oxysporum and attracts gold to its strands by dissolving particles within its environment.

Why does it do this?

Scientists suggest the fungus enjoys a biological advantage thanks to its gold attraction as it spreads faster than other fungi that don’t interact with the mineral in the same way.

"Fungi are well-known for playing an essential role in the degradation and recycling of organic material, such as leaves and bark, as well as for the cycling of other metals, including aluminium, iron, manganese and calcium," CSIRO researcher Tsing Bohu told AAP.

"But gold is so chemically inactive that this interaction is both unusual and surprising - it had to be seen to be believed."

In a piece published in the Nature Communications journal, the team of scientists said the finding suggests fungi could “substantially impact gold biogeochemical engineering”.

Australia is the world’s second-largest producer of gold, but output is predicted to decrease unless more deposits are discovered.

In the last few weeks, two Australians have stumbled upon massive gold nuggets. One man in Western Australia discovered a nugget estimated to be worth $100,000, and a girl in Bendigo found one worth more than $37,000 while out on a walk.

The team of scientists intend to study the fungus further to understand why gold attaches to it and if more gold is buried further down.

  • With AAP.

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