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The magic of mushrooms forces us to rethink what intelligence means

The astonishing secrets of fungal life raise profound questions

By Philip Ball   November 2020

Photo: biodiversity heritage library/public domain

One of biology’s enduring struggles since Darwin’s time has been to throw off the hierarchy in which all living things are judged by their proximity to the supposed pinnacle of evolution: humans. If we measure evolutionary success in terms of sheer biomass, bacteria outweigh all animals on Earth by a factor of about 35, while the humble fungi exceed the world’s fauna by around sixfold. Evolution, as the biologist Stephen Jay Gould unflaggingly tried to explain, has no overarching goal: it is not…

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